After a long and drawn out series of compromises, the Iowa state legislature has finally approved a statewide ban that will prohibit smoking in all public places. Well, almost all. The gaming floors of Iowa casinos receive a special exemption. Why is that? It could have something to do with the fact that gambling taxes brought in more than $300,000 million in state revenues last year. Or that Illinois’ new smoking ban, which doesn’t exempt casinos, is causing the state to lose millions of dollars as gamblers drive across the border into Iowa.
Regardless of what happens to net bar and restaurant revenue in Iowa after the ban takes effect, there will no doubt be many establishments that suffer large losses when they are forced to prohibit smoking. Yet faced with the potential loss of tax income, legislators granted casinos a monopoly on indoor smoking. Are casino employees not worthy of protection from secondhand smoke? Are small business owners unfit to make the decisions that will keep their own enterprises afloat? Any way you look at it, the state’s self-serving ban reeks of hypocrisy.
(Incidentally, the ban also exempts the Iowa Veterans Home.)