WIND RIVER INDIAN RESERVATION - Cocktails and beer are as common at most casinos as blackjack tables and slot machines.
Not at Wyoming's Indian casinos.
The sale of alcohol is outlawed on the "dry" Wind River Indian Reservation. Tribal officials say they wouldn't offer booze even if they could.
"We never intend on serving alcohol," said Melanie Gambler, the primary gaming regulator for the Northern Arapaho Tribe. "There is enough of that locally in town."
Officials from both the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes say they don't want the liability of serving booze, nor the responsibility for lives lost or injuries related to drunken driving.
"We just don't want the responsibility of serving someone and when they are drunk causing problems for us or even getting into an accident," Gambler said. It "just keeps the casino and the community a lot more safe."
Customers occasionally ask for a drink, Gambler said, but nobody gets upset when it's not available. In fact, some favor the alcohol-free casinos.
Lander resident Deborah Hamon, who attended the opening of the Shoshone Rose Casino near Lander last week, praised the tribes for declining to offer alcoholic beverages.
"Otherwise, you might be putting up with a lot of intoxicated persons," said Hamon, a certified public accountant.
There are plenty of examples of successful Indian casinos around the nation that don't offer alcohol, said Mark Van Norman, executive director of the nonprofit National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, D.C.
For example, the Shakopee Sioux Tribe's Mystic Lake Casino in Minnesota has been fabulously successful without selling a drop.
"There are a number of notable examples," Van Norman said.
Shoshone Business Council member Willie Noseep said the initial success of the Northern Arapaho Tribe's casino proves that alcohol isn't a requirement for a viable gaming establishment. His tribe won't seek permission to offer it.
"I don't think it will be a factor for us," Noseep said.
In addition to being alcohol-free, some parts of the casinos will soon go smoke-free.
The Shoshone Rose Casino was designed with a separate nonsmoking wing, and a ventilation system that prevents cigarette smoke from entering the room. The smoke-free area will house about 50 slot machines, Noseep said.
The Wind River Casino's new location south of Riverton will offer a nonsmoking section, which officials believe will attract a slice of the community that refuses to frequent smoking establishments.
The smoke-free section will also offer relief to casino employees who are bothered by cigarette smoke, Gambler said.
"We just figured it would be a lot better for (customers) if they were able to come out there and have a nonsmoking section," Gambler added.
Reach capital bureau reporter Jared Miller at (307) 632-1244 or at email@example.com.