Off the Press

March 13, 2012

By Christina Lords

Luck be an ashtray tonight

Christina Lords Press reporter

As I rolled over and brushed the sleep from my eyes Sunday morning, I had a powerful first thought to the day.

“Good God,” I thought, wrinkling my nose in disgust. “What is that smell?”

To my own horror, it struck me. The smell wasn’t originating from the garbage can in my apartment. It wasn’t wafting in from outside. It was emanating from me — à la Eau de Parfum Cigarettebutt.

Joining a friend, I ventured out the night before to check out the Snoqualmie Casino. With an ever-present affinity for Las Vegas, I thought it an excellent opportunity to try out some actual gambling tactics that require more than pushing shiny buttons on a slot machine without the expensive plane ride to Nevada.

A woman on a mission, I wanted to learn table games — especially the ways of the wheel in roulette. (Craps, as it turns out, still remains a mystery to me.)

But as I jockeyed for a position at the roulette table between a man I later learned was named Klaus and some old woman screaming, “You have color chips?” at the casino employee running the table, I couldn’t help but be distracted by one thing.

To my right, a quiet man with an impressive collection of winnings was playing the game. A lit cigarette that desperately needed to be ashed burned slowly but surely in an ashtray between us.

My eyes welled. My nostrils flared in protest. My lungs cried a little inside.

In 2012, how is this still a thing?

When you watch cigarette-infused television such as AMC’s 1960s throwback “Mad Men,” the amount of smoke undulating over the heads of the actors and actresses seems almost absurd.

But there at the roulette table, it was a reality.

Backed by the likes of the American Cancer Society, the state of Washington thankfully passed one of the country’s strictest statewide smoking ban in public places like restaurants, clubs, bowling alleys and bars in 2005.

The one notable exception to that rule? Tribal casinos.

The affects of the ban didn’t go unnoticed. According to indiangaming.com, after the Washington smoking ban became law, “the revenues of 30 of the largest nontribal casinos in the state, which had previously been increasing in excess of 13 percent per year, suddenly fell 14 percent.”

It’s not that the tribal gaming powers that be don’t recognize the importance of attempting to provide an environment where everyone can have a good time.

The Snoqualmie Casino boasts a much-appreciated nonsmoking slot machine area and each of its restaurants, as well as the Poker Room, are nonsmoking.

“Are there nonsmoking areas?” is even listed as a frequently asked question on the casino’s website. Casino officials are aware of changing societal norms when it comes to who smokes where.

And while I appreciate the effort, the best of both worlds doesn’t fly when confronted by the deep burn and harmful effects of Roulette Man’s lingering lucky cig.

Aside from the smoke, I had a wonderful time in a beautiful casino that I’d love to go back to.

But the next time I get that lucky itch, I’ll opt for a place that will unabashedly take my money without having to wake up with the scent of cigarettes clinging to my jeans long after I’ve left the casino floor.

Christina Lords: 392-6434, ext. 239, or newcastle@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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