The city council in Sioux City is considering an ordinance which would ban smoking at the city’s gambling casino. The state law which goes into effect July 1st bans smoking in most public places, but would allow it on the gambling floors at casinos.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs suggests Sioux City’s city council would be on shaky legal ground if it enacts the ordinance. "We did not repeal the state law that prohibits local governments from adopting smoking ordinances," Gronstal says. "We did not repeal that law, so I’m not sure if they know what they’re doing up there."
And Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who shepherded the smoking ban through the House, says Sioux City shouldn’t be too hasty as that exemption allowing smoking on casino floors may be short lived. "I think it’s pretty clear that the state, at least this year, has spoken and said that we’re going to exempt the gaming floor — not the entire property but the gaming floor — and I think there are a number of legislators me included that will be back at it next year," Olson says, "but I think the legislature spoke pretty clearly this year."
Olson expects other cities with casinos to consider anti-smoking ordinances similar to the one being drafted for Sioux City. "On the other side, we’ve already heard from bar owners and others working in the opposite direction," Olson says. "so this is kind of a natural course of dealing with what’s a pretty big sea change in how we regulate smoking in this state."
In 2003, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down smoking bans in Ames and Iowa City, ruling that local governments are forbidden by state law from enacting smoking ordinances that are stricter than state law.