Under current law, casino workers paid by the hour must earn at least 125% of the federal minimum wage. That’s $9.06 an hour today. A provision in a bill that cleared the legislature Wednesday night makes that $9.06 rate permanent December 31, even if the federal minimum wage is raised.
Representative Chris Hall, a Democrat, is from Sioux City where the Hard Rock Casino is a major employer. “Maintaining a low base of wages for a significant number of people in the employ of casinos I think is sending the wrong signal,” Hall says.
Hall, who was the only legislator to address the issue during debate, says casino employees face unique workplace challenges.
“The customer base that they attract and the challenges that these workers need to address at work on a daily basis can be pretty complex,” Hall says. “And it also is the only environment that workers have to go in the state of Iowa in which they’re subjected to a workplace with tobacco smoke still.”
A spokesman for the Iowa Gaming Association says starting hourly pay for casino workers is usually above $9.00, but if the federal minimum wage increases to $15, the hourly wage floor for casino workers would go to at least $18.75 cents an hour — and that would be a significant issue for the casinos.
Another provision in the big tax bill that passed the legislature earlier this week erases state taxes on what’s called promotional play. Casinos offer potential customers $100 or so in credit to bet, as a promotion, and under current law if the customer uses the casino’s credit, it’s taxed as if it’s casino revenue.