A proposal that would completely ban smoking at the 18 state-licensed casinos in Iowa has emerged during consideration of another gambling-related bill. That bill would set up a state-sanctioned online poker network, run by the casinos.

Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says it’s time for those same casinos to lose the exemption in the statewide smoking ban which continues to allow smoking on the casino floor.

“I think Iowa bar owners, restaurants and entertainment industry have been very clear that they don’t like this loophole,” McCoy says. “They felt this loophole was setting up a double-standard.” McCoy cites a recent poll which found 14% of the Iowans surveyed would be more likely to go to a casino if the facility was completely smoke-free, while only four percent said they’d be less likely if unable to smoke while gambling.

A lobbyist for the casino industry cites other studies indicating casinos that have gone smoke-free have seen revenue decline by 25% to 30%. Senator McCoy is unswayed by that argument. McCoy says the state should create a “level playing field” for all Iowa businesses, and that means the casinos should go smoke-free.

“This industry is not a sacred cow,” McCoy says. “It is time to address the issue of the health and welfare of all workers in the state of Iowa.” And McCoy says that includes the four-thousand people who work at casinos and therefore are exposed to second-hand smoke during their workday.

Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says adding this anti-smoking proposal to the bill about Internet gambling dooms the entire package. “I believe it’d be the demise of the bill,” Dotzler says. “The bill would be pulled.”

These and other gambling-related issues were considered by a five-member subcommittee earlier today and will next be debated by the Senate Ways & Means Committee, although a time for that debate has not been set. 

(This story was updated at 3:30 p.m.)