Lawmaker introduces bill that would force casinos to comply with Iowa's smoking ban

Iowa lawmakers in both the House and Senate are proposing legislation that would force casinos to comply with the state's smoking ban.

Casino floors in Iowa are now exempt from following a 2008 law that prohibits smoking in public places. A bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Herman Quirmbach of Ames would eliminate that exemption.

Quirmbach said Tuesday there is broad public support for such a change, which he believes would also have a health benefit for casino workers.

"There was some pushback in 2008 when we adopted it," he said, referencing some bars and restaurants in the state. "But what we found is that there's been no adverse effect on sales and revenues in the entertainment industry and the hospitality industry."

Democratic Rep. Lisa Heddens of Ames said she plans to co-sponsor a similar bill with Rep. Kevin Koester, a Republican from Ankeny. She said there is hope for bipartisan legislation since Gov. Terry Branstad has said he would sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Rep. Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa, said the bill may have some support in the House, but it will face strong opposition from the casino industry.

Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa Gaming Association, said he believes Iowa could lose at least $60 million in revenue if the exemption is removed. Iowa will be at a competitive disadvantage to tribal casinos both in Iowa and neighboring states that still allow smoking on casino floors, he added.