Iowa’s statewide smoking ban goes into effect today. It goes even further than I’d realized, banning not only smoking indoors in all bars and restaurants, but also on the patio of any place that prepares food. To allow smoking in its outdoor areas, a restaurant can only serve prepackaged foods like pretzels and frozen pizza. So the state’s smokers are not only forced to go outside, they also have to eat lousy food.
Among the few places smokers can still stay inside are the casino’s, a hypocritical bit of protection for Iowa’s gambling revenues. Bar owners who see their own revenues decline won’t be offered any relief.
Iowa’s smoking ban hypocrisy
Apparently the smoking ban in New South Wales is turning away more casino business than the government anticipated, leading to a shortfall of tax revenue:
Clubs alone have lost about $400 million in revenue over the last 12 months, largely because of drops in poker machine revenue.
Comparisons between budget statements 2007-08 and 2008-09 reveal Treasury estimated they would receive $1061 million in pokie taxes, but instead received $1006 million – a shortfall of $55 million.
The latest budget shows that Treasury does not expect clubs and hotels to pick up again until 2010-11.
By comparison, Star City – where smoking is still permitted in the high rollers’ room – collected about $8 million more in pokie revenue than predicted in this year’s budget.
This is exactly why here in the US we have Iowa hypocritically exempting casinos from its new smoking ban, with Michigan possibly poised to do the same. When smoking dependent businesses lose revenue, well that’s just too bad. But when the state risks losing taxes, it’s happy to give itself a competitive advantage.