Marti Lelko is an occasional commentary contributor to The Paper.


I’m not a gambler. I don’t have anything against gambling or casinos. I’m just not into losing money. The few times I stepped into a casino, I lost money. Growing up in a middle-class family, money was saved for college educations and rare vacations. I worked at a young age to pay for my clothes, makeup etc, so I learned to spend carefully. To me, gambling losses aren’t worth the entertainment value. However, lots of people enjoy casinos. They apparently have better luck! Tribal casinos are big business in our state, with over 2 billion in economic impact, according to the American Gaming Association 2020 report. 

This story also appeared in Commentary

Like many in the entertainment world, casinos faced challenging times during the pandemic. They’re just now getting back on track. Over 18,000 people were employed by the 32 casinos in New Mexico in 2020 prior to the pandemic. I understand their importance to our economy. What I do have an issue with is the casino that continues to use sexist marketing to lure people. In this post Epstein/ Nassar/ Weinstein world, it’s really tone deaf. Having sold media advertising for 30 years, I’m not naive. Sex sells. But in this “Me Too” world of women (and men) being sexualized, minimized and assaulted, is it helpful to have scantily clad women as a TV campaign? 

These women are not just eye candy, they writhe with suggestive poses and expressions. It makes you question just what exactly are they selling? It’s also false advertising. These smiling pseudo-strippers don’t exist and aren’t there to greet you. Instead it’s everyday people, pale and hunkered over machines unaware of the day and time, wearing t-shirts and elastic waist pants. They never look happy. The cigarette smoke in some of these places is so thick you come out coughing and reeking. I understand that reality might not make for a successful ad campaign. But casinos or any businesses that perpetuate a sexist fantasy with outdated role models are doing our community a disservice. They’re doing girls a disservice by giving them unrealistic body images and ridiculous Barbie Doll standards of beauty. TikTok and Instagram are already adding unnecessary social pressures on our kids. It’s time to join 2022 and rethink how they’re representing women and choose images and messages more appropriate for these times. 

The tax impact and tribal revenue share from our state’s casinos is over 350 million a year. Money they deserve. Each Pueblo determines how those monies are used. The casino in question should consider taking money spent on their sex-kitten campaign to use on programs that empower women in their community and help find the more than 70 indigenous women currently missing in our state. Maybe objectifying, demeaning and sexualizing is how they ended up victimized in the first place. If you wouldn’t want to see your wife, sister or daughter dressed like that or doing something suggestive on camera, then using it as part of your marketing is probably not a good idea.