Nov 15, 2022 - News

Iowa's Prairie Meadows casino could go smoke-free

A photo from inside Prairie Meadows Casino.

Slot machine players at Prairie Meadows in 2019. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Smoking inside Prairie Meadows has been reduced to one section of the casino and even that area may go smoke-free at some point, CEO Gary Palmer tells Axios.

  • The current indoor smoking area makes up less than 5% of the overall casino space.

Why it matters: Prairie Meadows is the largest casino in Iowa and its decisions could influence the policies at other gambling facilities.

  • Casinos across the nation are increasingly adopting smoke-free policies, citing employee and customer safety as well as their long-term business models, the New York Times reports.

Catch up fast: Casinos were exempted from a 2008 Iowa law that made most public places smoke-free.

  • Prairie Meadows was temporarily smoke-free after reopening during the pandemic in 2020.

What's happening: The casino doesn't track smoking but Palmer estimates the amount of its customers who smoke has dropped from 60% to 25% in the last two decades.

  • There's no immediate plan to consider a complete ban but "I wouldn't rule it out," Palmer told Axios.

Of note: Prairie Meadows has spent millions of dollars on air filtration systems and believes smoke is largely contained to the designated area, Palmer noted.

State of play: Iowa's casino industry has resisted legislative changes in recent years to require their facilities to go smoke free, arguing they would lose customers.

  • Native American tribes have been quicker to adopt a national no-smoking movement in casinos, including some in Iowa.

Between the lines: The industry's longtime paradigm assumed smokers played more.

  • But that view excludes a large part of the public who don't want to come to a smoky casino, the Times reported.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more