A Different Kind of Green: Tribal Nations in Oklahoma Practice Recycling at Casinos

Article excerpt

A number of paths wind through the slot machines, card tables and entertainment memorabilia adorning Catoosa's Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Patrons seemingly walk the pulsing maze with ease, content with whatever destiny awaits them.

Black-clad servers aid them along the way, refreshing their drinks or retrieving their discarded cups and papers. And that's when the Cherokee Nation's recycling program kicks in.

"They're so adept at it, usually you don't even see them do it," said Molly Jarvis, vice president of shared services, marketing, communications and cultural tourism for Cherokee Nation Entertainment.

With all the cash changing hands, the casino industry has long enjoyed a prized "green" association in the public's eye. But with their acres of parking, spreading rooftops and boundless flashing light displays, many accented by tobacco smoke, these same casinos rarely come across as environmentally friendly.

But such images can be deceiving. FireLake Grand Casino actually powers its lights, air purifiers, games and other electrical systems with two geothermal wells. It has more planned as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation prepares to start construction this summer on a hotel to serve its large Shawnee complex.

"It basically lets us consume up to 85 percent less energy," said Brad Peltier, director of marketing and public relations. "OG&E helped us install it. For the nearly five years we've been open, it's saved us a considerable amount of money."

The Cherokees, operators of the Hard Rock, seven other casinos and two other hotels around northeastern Oklahoma, recycled 279 tons of paper, aluminum, plastic and other materials last year. That included none of the construction materials CNE recycled in completing "The Joint" concert hall.

Since 2008 the casino industry has embraced a trendy but enduring "green" cycle. Native American tribal operators led much of this, reflecting their historic alignment with nature, although several traditional gaming operators jumped on the bandwagon, with some Las Vegas complexes pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

A few operators incorporated environmental improvements even within some casino traditions. The Hard Rock offers 10,500 square feet of smoke-free gambling space to match the clean air in its hotel, convention space and The Joint. …