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Up In Smoke

A casino's search for the high country

Up In Smoke

As you may know by now, I use this column to satirize and otherwise report on funny things concerning casinos. I take the reader on a humorous ride through the gaffes, the colorful characters and the unusual occurrences in the industry we all know and love.

But I’ve got a confession that may very well surprise you: Once in a while, I actually have trouble finding funny stuff. (You could tell from that first paragraph, right?) Sometimes when that happens, I will reference the issue of GGB from exactly one year back, to see what I thought was funny then. In November 2015, I wrote about a plan by South Dakota’s Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe to open a “marijuana lounge” with slot machines in a former bowling alley on their reservation and near their current casino.

I decided to revisit South Dakota one year later to see how that plan worked out. As it turns out, it didn’t. State officials apparently put the kibosh on the plan.

According to the Indian Country Today website, South Dakota Attorney General Marty “Buzzkill” Jackley scrutinized the tribe’s marijuana-lounge plans and announced that while the sovereign tribe had legalized marijuana, the state had not, so any non-tribal member smoking the ganj at the Siouxby-Doobie Lounge (my suggested brand) would be subject to arrest for smoking pot.

What’s more, non-tribal members could be arrested even after leaving the, er, joint. According to the website, the attorney general announced that “any non-tribal member returning to state land with marijuana in their system (is) violating state law, and thus, also subject to prosecution.”

Wow. Bummer.

They had everything all set, too. It had been in December 2014 that the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memorandum stating that tribal nations may grow and sell marijuana as long as they use the same standards as legal-pot states like Colorado and Washington. In July 2015, the Santee Sioux Tribal Executive Committee officially issued an ordinance creating legal operations “on specific tribal lands for the possession, consumption, cultivation and distribution of marijuana.”

Soon after that, the tribe built a growing facility and planted seeds, in partnership with a Colorado weed-growing company. (Remember me hilariously noting that it was a “joint venture?” Har!) They started transforming the bowling alley into a lounge, complete with gaming machines, F&B facilities and even four rooms dedicated to medical marijuana treatments. The plan was to open the lounge with much fanfare last New Year’s Eve.

Then the attorney general stuck his nose in, and snuffed out the plan like a spent roach. (Oh, come on. You don’t remember they were called that?) Well, not officially, but tribal leaders, faced with the prospect of loyal guests getting nabbed just outside of the reservation and put in the slammer, decided to suspend the whole operation until they can get a higher opinion.

OK, that was an accidental joke. By “higher,” I meant the U.S. Department of Justice. The last word on the subject from the tribe was that the suspension of operations was being viewed as a “brief sidestep” to their plans, and they were continuing to negotiate with federal and state officials to reach an accommodation that would allow opening of the Siouxby-Doobie Lounge, Casino & Spa at some point in the future.

This decision was made right after the first crop was harvested. Late last year, they burned the entire crop. A local reporter asked the tribe member who had been tasked with burning the crop what this setback meant for the tribal economy, to which he replied:

“Well, it means… Well, what I’m saying is…


Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

I hope they can work things out. The tribe had a sophisticated plan in place for the marijuana lounge. There were going to be dozens of strains from which to choose from a sort of stoner wine list, with food, beverages and, I’m guessing, 24-hour Grateful Dead music over the audio system. There was a strong security program, and they even had a plan in place to shuttle customers back to local hotels after their gaming/dope-smoking sessions.

I’m guessing the drivers were under instructions to take the easiest route past the local donut shops and ice cream parlors. Hey, that’s how I’d do it. Loyal player’s club members would get donut comps. Every 1,000 points gets you a dozen. With sprinkles.

I’d also have a nap room on property—available, of course, for a nominal fee.

Hey, I’m always thinking.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.