Casino & Bingo: IA Casinos


Iowa Casinos brace for smoking ban debate

Effort to ban smoking in Iowa casino gaming areas stalls
February 12, 2013
Rod Boshart
DES MOINES — Hopes for anti-tobacco forces to ban smoking at the gambling floors of state-regulated casino were stalled Tuesday when a Senate subcommittee decided to delay action to gather more information.
Senate Study Bill 1107 seeks to lift the exemption from Iowa’s Clean Indoor Air Act that took effect July 1, 2008.
Dr. Richard Deming, a radiation oncologist who is medical director of the Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines, told subcommittee members that “Iowa was on the forefront of forward-thinking” when the legislature and former Gov. Chet Culver agreed to ban smoking in most public areas and work places. The exceptions were gambling areas and the Iowa Veterans Home.
Deming said more than 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart attack deaths annually are associated with the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke, as well as significant costs related to illnesses and employee absenteeism.
“Iowans who have to work should not have to choose between their health and a pay check,” he said.
Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents 18 commercial casinos licensed by the state to operate in Iowa, said casinos have been very proactive in installing air filtration systems for the benefit of their customers and employees.
He also noted that state-regulated casinos in Iowa would be put at a competitive disadvantage with the three Native American casinos that are not subject to Iowa’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
Ehrecke predicted that lifting the exemption on gaming floors would cause a 20 percent drop in casino revenues, which would have a $60 million to $80 million decline in the $330 million in state taxes the facilities pay annually. He also projected that a smoking ban would lead to 1,500 casino employees with a $40 million yearly payroll losing their jobs. The industry collectively is Iowa’s largest tourism attraction.
Cathy Callaway of the American Cancer Society noted that all of Iowa’s surrounding states except Missouri are 100 percent smoke-free and that 500 state-regulated casinos in 20 states have banned smoking. She said research has indicated the only effective way to remove harmful effects of second-hand smoke is to remove the smoking.
Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, the subcommittee’s leader, supports the measure. She planned to schedule a follow-up meeting after Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson, declined to sign the subcommittee report and Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said he needed more time to gather additional information. Petersen noted that a similar bill has been introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee and she might try to move that version forward if the prospects for passage were better in that committee.

Raising The Smoking Stakes

July 20, 2011
By Perry Groten
LARCHWOOD, IA – The new Grand Falls Casino in Lyon County, Iowa is doubling-down by accommodating both smoking and non-smoking customers.
Even though Iowa has had a statewide ban in place for the past three years , smoking is permitted in casinos like Grand Falls. The lure of lighting-up is driving gamblers from South Dakota and Minnesota across the border into Iowa.
To many customers at Grand Falls Casino, smokes and slots are a winning combination.
“Depends on how bad you’re hooked on it,” Ray Patch of Sioux Falls said.
Patch of Sioux Falls visits Grand Falls every couple of weeks because he can smoke while he plays.
“If this was an entirely non-smoking establishment, I probably wouldn’t come once a month,” Patch said.
Grand Falls is splitting the difference right down the middle when it comes to smoking. Half of its 900 slot machines are designated non-smoking, the other half allows smoking. So far, players have dropped more money into the smoking slots than in the non-smoking section.
“Not everyone in the smoking side smokes, but we have a variety of machines on both sides, and by looking at our coin-in, our smoking side definitely has a lot more coin-in than the non-smoking side,” Grand Falls Casino General Manager Sharon Haselhoff said.
But non-smokers are a valuable part of the customer-base at Grand Falls, and the appreciation for those gamblers runs deep, very deep. Far below the casino floor, Grand Falls takes a bottom-up approach to cleaning the air. A giant air duct pump the smoke from vents located underneath the slot machines and gaming tables.
“So it pushes the smoke up and then we suck it out the top,” Haselhoff said.
It’s a state-of -the art ventilation system that cost $1 million to install.
“And it’s something that we felt that was worth the investment because it really does create the atmosphere that’s comfortable for the smoker and the non-smoker,” Haselhoff said.
“You walk in, you can’t smell the smoke. It’s very clean, well-established. Hopefully, they’ll keep it that way, it won’t go downhill,” Patch said.
Grand Falls took in nearly $4.5 million during its first month. Much of that money spent by smokers who can’t light up in South Dakota and Minnesota, even with a tribal casino, that does allow smoking, just up the interstate.
“It’s not really a hassle to go to Flandreau, but the roads and everything going up there, whereas coming over here is 10 to 15 minutes, you’re here and you’re doing it,” Patch said.
“If we were to ban smoking, I can tell you that our revenue numbers would drop about 20 percent,” Haselhoff said.
The Iowa legislature has granted casinos an exemption from the statewide smoking ban that’s been in effect. But Grand Falls worries about new legislative efforts to extend that ban here.
“It’s come up every year since, and I would image it will come up again. Whether or not it goes anywhere, time will tell,” Haselhoff said.
For Grand Falls to keep up its early success, the casino will have to rely upon both smokers and non-smokers to provide breathing space in its profit margins.
While smoking is allowed on the Grand Falls casino floor, smoking is prohibited in the restaurants as well in its hotel rooms.

Casino smoking ban passes committee

February 25, 2008
Smoking would be banned in state-regulated casinos under a bill that passed a committee in the Iowa Senate today.
Senators stripped a controversial casino exemption from House File 2212. They also got rid of a 10-foot buffer zone targeted at preventing people from smoking in entry ways to businesses.
The vote was 8-7. All the yes votes were Democrats. Six Republicans and Democratic Sen. Dennis Black of Grinnell voted “present.”
The full Senate is expected to debate the bill this week, possibly Wednesday.
The version that passed the Iowa House last Tuesday would’ve banned smoking in about 99 percent of Iowa’s public spaces, but after a nearly-five-hour debate, lawmakers voted to allow smoking in the 17 state-regulated casinos.
Lawmakers in the House said they excused casinos from the proposal after Iowa Gaming Association lobbyists distributed information that showed smoking bans would likely reduce state revenue from gambling taxes by as much as $100 million a year.
The legislation will not affect Native American casinos, which cannot be regulated by the state.
House File 2212 would ban tobacco use in almost all public places. People could still smoke in private homes, farm tractors, tobacco retail shops at the Iowa State Fair and certain other places.
Reporter Jennifer Janeczko Jacobs can be reached at (515) 284-8001 or

Casinos brace for smoking ban debate

11 December 2006

DUBUQUE, Iowa Facing pressure from anti-smoking advocates, many casinos are spending a small fortune to improve air quality.

But some lawmakers don’t think it will be enough. They predict some stiff changes could be coming for the multibillion-dollar industry when lawmakers convene next year.

Representative Pam Jochum of Dubuque has co-sponsored two bills. One would ban smoking in all public places statewide, and another would leave it to local governments to decide. She says the health implications of smoking demand action.

Some casinos have installed air ventilators to appease the anti-smoking advocates. They’re taking action because they fear a smoking ban could push away a large portion of customers.

Those fears may have merit.

Casino Windsor in Ontario, Canada, has seen its business decline 33 percent after the province enacted a smoking ban at all casinos last summer.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More