Iowa’s Prairie Meadows has reduced indoor smoking at the property to one section of the casino, with the possibility of the property going fully smoke-free at some point, CEO Gary Palmer told Axios.
The current indoor smoking area makes up less than 5% of the overall casino. Prairie Meadows is the largest property in the state, and its motion could influence changes in policies in other gambling facilities in the jurisdiction, according to the cited source.
Casinos across the nation are increasingly adopting smoke-free policies, citing employee and customer safety as well as their long-term business models, as reported by the New York Times.
In Iowa, casinos were exempted from a 2008 law that made most public places smoke-free. Prairie Meadows temporarily adopted a full smoke-free policy after reopening during the pandemic in 2020.
Axios reports that Palmer stated the property does not track smoking but he estimates the amount of its customers who smoke has dropped from 60% to 25% in the last two decades. While the executive said there are no immediate plans to consider a complete ban he “wouldn’t rule it out.”
The CEO also pointed out the casino’s multi-million-dollar investment in air filtration systems, and added that he believes smoking is largely contained to the designated area.
Iowa’s casino industry has resisted legislative changes in recent years to require their facilities to go smoke-free, arguing they would lose customers. In contrast, Native American tribes have been quicker to adopt a national no-smoking movement in casinos, including some in Iowa.
The smoking debate is currently sprouting in more than just one state in the nation. This week, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll showed only a small number of New Jersey residents support a total smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos.
Smoking was banned in most indoor areas in New Jersey in 2006. However, casinos remained an exception. Nowadays, Atlantic City properties allow smoking in about one-quarter of their gaming areas.
Back in October, a group of Atlantic City casino workers opposing indoor smoking announced their plans to expand their efforts beyond New Jersey. The Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE) group, which was formed last year in an effort to protect casino workers from secondhand smoke, unveiled the ambitions to extend into new states as G2E unfolded in Las Vegas, proving the growing importance of the issue and the debate around casino smoking.