Iowa's Prairie Meadows casino could go smoke-free
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.
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