Turtle Mountain casino branch smoke-free 6-28-07

BELCOURT, N.D. (AP) - The downtown branch of the Turtle Mountain tribe's Sky Dancer Casino is seeing an increase in customers now that the facility is smoke-free, its manager says.

The Turtle Mountain Tribal Council voted June 4 to ban smoking at the casino's downtown branch.

The smoking ban has not deterred regular customers, said Randy Brunelle, the casino manager.

“We are getting people who didn't come down here before because of the smoke,” he said. “It was pretty bad. We don't have very good ventilation.”

Patty Allery, president of the Turtle Mountain Tobacco Prevention Coalition, said the group would like a smoke-free area in the main casino, but thought the downtown branch would be a start.

The mini-casino has 73 slot machines.

Because of the smoke, there have been people interested in visiting the casino who can't, Allery said.

“We have employees who had to quit their jobs because they got sick. They attributed it to the smoke,” she said.

Brunelle said he and his employees like the change, especially now that the mini-casino has been scrubbed down and repainted.

“You come in the morning and it smells pretty darn good in here now,” he said.