Gambling referendums passed last week in all 17 of the communities that are currently home to casinos, allowing them to continue operating. The next big issue facing the gambling establishments could the smoking exemption, as both candidates for governor said they would sign a ban into law if it passed the legislature. Iowa Gaming Association president, Wes Ehrecke, says they don’t want to see a smoking ban for casinos passed.
Ehrecke says they hope it doesn’t pass and they want to “educate” Governor-elect Branstad and newly elected leaders on the “fact that it would be a competitive disadvantage with the tribal nation casinos that have a sovereign nation status.” Ehrecke says banning smoking would have a negative impact on casino revenues.
“There is significant research to show in other states where they have banned smoking that it could be a 25 to 30-percent drop in revenue, and therefore it could be a 60 to 90-million (dollar) drop in revenue to the state, and certainly to the charitable contributions and the purchasing of Iowa based products and services,” Ehrecke says, “but more importantly the casinos have been very proactive in having a non-smoking section within their casinos. And they have state-of-the-art filtration/ventilation systems to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers.”
Ehrecke says the casinos have to make sure they cater to both smokers and non-smokers. “Collectively we’re Iowa’s largest tourist attraction with nearly 23-million visitors, and so we have to be very proactive in providing a great environment for a premiere entertainment destination,” Ehrecke says.
The Iowa Smoke-free Air Act became law in 2008 and banned smoking in most public places, but had an exemption that allows smoking to continue on the gambling floors at the state’s casinos.