No Smoking: Iowa Casinos Cracking Down

Tribal casinos in the state of Iowa issued a no-smoking ban when they reopened during the coronavirus pandemic, and these restrictions are expected to stick. Tribal casinos are hoping that banning smoking from their properties limits the chances of spreading COVID-19 amongst guests and employees.

Most tribal casinos reopened their doors during the month of June, while others waited until the beginning of this month. All of the tribal casinos put a no-smoking ban as part of their reopening plans, and that ban has not been lifted.

The four tribal casinos in Iowa are the Blackbird Bend Casino, Meskwaki Bingo Casino, Prairie Flower Casino, and WinnaVegas Casino Resort. These properties did not have to follow state guidelines and were able to reopen whenever they felt that it was safe to do so.

Smoking is common inside of casino properties, but the tribes cracked down to stop the spread of the disease. Even though it has not been proven that smoking leads to COVID-19 transmission, it is widely believed that this is the case.

Almost all of the tribal and commercial casinos in the state of Iowa also require masks to be worn when inside of the facility, and this doesn’t allow for guests or employees to smoke. Other casinos are simply recommending that face masks be worn, although they are offering free face masks to any guests that ask for one.

The four tribal casinos got together and discussed reopening plans, and the no-smoking ban was a very simple decision. The casinos wanted the chance to bring in some revenue during the pandemic, and they felt that this was a necessary step to reopen their doors.

Some customers have spoken out in opposition of the no-smoking protocol, but the casinos have not budged. Each casino has set up a designated smoking area, but it is well away from the property’s entrance. 

Iowa passed a Smokefree Air Act in 2008 that bans smoking in most public areas within the state. Casinos were exempt from this act, and casinos have not enforced a smoking ban until the last few months.

American Lung Association is on Board

The American Lung Association is on board with the recent bans from tribal casinos, and they would like to see this become a permanent rule in all casinos. The American Lung Association has been vocal in their opposition that smoking be allowed in casino properties throughout the US. They are hopeful that this will lead to some permanent changes.

Commercial casinos in the state of Iowa have not followed the lead set by the tribal casinos, which has upset the American Lung Association. Commercial casinos are simply trying to please their customers to bring in business and begin to recover financially. 

Other States Taking Similar Position

Iowa is not the only state in the US that has seen a smoking ban in the US, but their tribal casinos have banded together to create this change. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have both seen some casinos introduce this ban as a way to keep customers and employees safe.

State regulations in Pennsylvania strongly encouraged a ban on all smoking in casinos, and most of the properties have complied with the request. Smoking is still allowed in a few casinos in the state, but a number of them have followed the directives handed down.

New Jersey casinos were not allowed to reopen until the July 4 weekend, and banning smoking was one of the stipulations that was put in place. In New Jersey, casinos are also not allowed to serve food and drinks, which has hurt the overall revenue of each location.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.