Iowa Study Examines Affects 10 Years After Casino Smoking Ban
By Bob Garcia
Casinos across the country lobbied for their right to allow gamblers to smoke amid statewide indoor smoking bans across the nation. Does their argument that smoke-free casinos negatively impact gaming revenues hold up? Not according to a ten-year study conducted in Iowa.
The Iowa Smoke-Free Air Act went into effect just over ten years ago, making bars and restaurants across the state smoke-free zones. Now with a decade of data on the effects of the ban, the state Alcoholic Beverages Division claims there is no evidence to suggest the ban would hurt the state casino business.
Non-smokers in Iowa who wanted to avoid the smell and toxic exposure have many options in Iowa, but casinos are still not one of them. Lobbying has successfully kept casinos exempt from the Smoke-Free Air Act, but regulators say it is time for that exemption to end.
According to the officials in Iowa, the number of alcoholic beverage licenses increased and the industry continued to experience growth despite the smoking ban. Casinos, however, say smoking bans have already cost them millions, which translates to a significant loss for the municipalities where they pay taxes.
Though the Iowa study is cannot be considered a complete case study because it only includes the effects of the smoking ban on non-gaming businesses with liquor licenses, its findings are supported by more complete studies in other states.
In Illinois, casinos claimed they saw admissions fall five percent due to the statewide smoking ban. An independent study published in the medical journal Tobacco Control concluded the entire drop could be attributed to the nationwide recession.