Home Madison Casino Celebrates Smoke-free Anniversary

Casino Celebrates Smoke-free Anniversary

Ho-Chunk Gaming – Madison Executive Manager Dan Brown receives the ANR Foundation Smoke-free Champion Award from Char Day, program director of American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, for his efforts in making the facility smoke-free.

After doing some research, as we find out more, three years ago, Ho-Chunk Nation officials gambled by making the decision to ban smoking at the Ho-Chunk Gaming – Madison facility.

That decision was a winner, according to Executive Manager Dan Brown.

The three-year anniversary of the smoke-free resolution was observed on Friday, Aug. 17, with a special ceremony just outside the casino in a tent erected for the occasion. The Native American Tourism of Wisconsin was host for the event.

“I’m here to report to you today that this is a highly successful decision,” Brown said. “It’s working. Our players are staying longer and they’re playing more. Then, the patron count started to take off,” Brown said. “I’m happy to report today that in the last two years, we’ve set records in revenue at this facility,” he said. “We’ve not only recovered from a brief time of revenue challenge, we’ve surpassed it and continue to surpass it.”

Clinton Isham from Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC) served as the master of ceremonies of the event. Representatives from city of Madison, Ho-Chunk Nation officials, tribes of La Courte Oreilles, Navajo Nation, Oneida, St. Croix, Santee Nation, and states of California, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana were present. Also present were representatives of tobacco-free programs and drug-fee coalitions. A special screening of the video “Tobacco: Honoring Our Traditions and Our Health” was shown. Amy Delong, physician at the Ho-Chunk House of Wellness in Baraboo, said that she has one hope – that other casinos do the same. She knows of people who claim they only smoke when at the casino, so if the casino bans smoking, they will have no reason to smoke, as they go to the casino mostly for the gambling, while there are also options online like the Faasifu casino as well.

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Elliot Funmaker provided some insight on how tobacco is considered sacred, yet the use of commercial tobacco products can be harmful.

“The tobacco we get, we get from the Creator. When The Creator made Mother Earth, there were several plants that he bestowed upon the Ho-Chunk people. The Creator was not going to be responsible for the planting and preparation of this sacred plant. He put it in the hands of the people,” Funmaker said.

There are only certain people who can grow tobacco, he said. In order to understand how the tobacco is to the people and especially the Ho-Chunk people, the Creator told the earliest members that, if you need something, pour down tobacco.

“And if you ask for a certain gift or certain blessing, you use this tobacco,” he said. “When used in the proper way, it is strictly for spiritual purposes. We need to explain to our fellow people what this means to us. In its natural state, it’s very useful. It’s when you add other chemicals is when you start getting into other areas. I believe cancer has a lot of issues going on there,” he said.

Funmaker brought out a pouch of his tobacco. “The seeds of this tobacco is from the original – the beginning of time. He went outside by a tree and said a prayer, the way it’s always been done,” he said.

Ho-Chunk Nation Area II Legislator Kristen WhiteEagle, who represents an area which includes Madison, talked about how the decision to go smoke-free was difficult, but a decision that need to be made for the lives of the people.

“It’s all about the people and sustainability,” she said. WhiteEagle remembers the decision. It was controversial among the Ho-Chunk Nation. “Don’t all our casino guests want to smoke when they’re at a casino?” she asked. “But (the decision) was fruitful. So, we have a leader here, and he has a group of leaders here, and that includes all his staff. They’re all behind him. I think that’s really the reason why I’m up here talking today – not just my position as a public official or to speak on their behalf – but I saw this leadership. If it wasn’t for that, if it wasn’t for having that type of leadership – and I’m talking about Dan Brown – if you don’t know Dan Brown, he’s pretty dynamic, pretty special.”

She praised the greater Madison community and their support.

“Can we do this at other casinos? Boy, I sure hope we can do that in the Nation,” she said.

Brown said the decision was business-based, but has many additional advantages that go along with it – including the health benefits.

“Today is something that I did not solicit, which makes it all that more special. That someone saw this as pretty big decision, an important decision, and maybe something that sets a standard and that maybe other tribes and other organizations going forward will follow,” Brown said. “One of the mainstays in the business is that you should listen to your customers. In the casino environment in particular, you really have to listen to the customer. I’ve said for years and years that the smartest people, certainly the most knowledgeable people, on the gaming floor are my front-line employees. They have direct contact with their guests. Our guests don’t have any problem telling you what they think,” he said.

Brown reads customer comment cards every week. Depending on the activity, they can be really awesome or they can be really bummer, he said.

“I knew we were turning things around when I was getting all these great comments about the service, about the payoff percentage, about the friendly staff, so many great things. But they came with a qualified way too often and that qualifier was ‘but we hate the smoke,’” Brown said. “I can’t bring mom or I can’t bring dad. And when I do bring them, they can only stay for a short while. I get sick, I get headaches, I’m nauseous coming to your facility. I love it but I can’t stay long,” he listed as some of the comments. “So, in my constant quest for improvement, I remember sitting in my office thinking, ‘What if?’ What if we did go smoke free?” Brown questioned.

He asked for opinions at a monthly managers meeting. The millennials said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” The long-time employees in gaming did not so much. He asked to do a survey of their patrons, which ran for two months.

“The facts were upside down. Only 30 percent of the people insisted on smoking,” Brown said. Brown took the findings to the Business Department at the Tribal Office Building in Black River Falls.

“They said, ‘It’s your call.’ So, we did it,” Brown said. They provided ample notice to patrons then, on midnight of Aug. 1, 2015, the facility went smokeless. Almost all managers were present and party favors were given to everyone. Ashtrays were gone for good.

“The smoke’s gone and never looked back,” Brown said.

He thought about the health of employees, even though it was a business decision. He noticed there was less hacking among the employees. He also thought about prolonging the lives of the “Baby Boomers,” who are the primary patrons of the facility. In beginning, they did experienced some difficulties, but it coincided with a change of cutting back incentives at all six Ho-Chunk casinos. The new no-smoking policy did anger some customers. However, online casinos provide customers the opportunity to enjoy and สัมผัสประสบกาารณ์การเล่นบาคาร่าที่ UFABET from anywhere.

“I hate to say it, but ‘better players’ is what we discovered because now mom can bring dad in. The kids can bring their older folks in and they can sit and play and have a good time. It’s a recreational option that’s far more palatable now. People who wouldn’t before consider coming into a smoking casino are now coming in and they’re staying for extended periods of time,” Brown said. “We’re super pleased with this decision,” he said.

This Wednesday he got this comment from a person from Wittenberg, the kind of feedback on a regular basis, he said. “Last Saturday I stopped at the Ho-Chunk casino in Madison, Wisconsin. It was so nice being in a smoke-free casino. The place was packed and everyone was really happy being in a healthy environment,” Brown read from a card. “While we were experiencing the upswing in revenues, what we were noticing is the patron count wasn’t necessarily increasing exponentially, it was increasing slowly, but our revenues were taking off. So what that told us is that they’re staying longer.”