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News Summary

Governor would ban smoking at casinos 'tomorrow'

Publication Date: 2012-12-24
  • Author:O. Kay Henderson
  • Publication:Radio Iowa

A statewide ban on smoking in public places has been in effect since 2008, with one exception: smoking is still allowed on the gaming floors of Iowa casinos. Republican Governor Terry Branstad says if legislators pass a bill to ban smoking at the casinos, he "would sign it tomorrow."

The statewide smoking ban was signed into law by Democratic Governor Chet Culver, but Branstad has been an anti-smoking crusader during his political career. One of his first acts as governor in 1983 was to remove all the ashtrays and forbid smoking in the governor’s office and the official residence. Branstad says ending smoking on the casino floor is a public health issue.

"I just think in terms of fairness, we have a law that’s designed to protect people’s health having clean indoor air," Branstad says. "They have an exception."

The governor isn’t making the issue a priority, however.

"I intend to propose things that have a realistic chance of passing," Branstad says. "So there’s some things that I support and think would be good public policy that aren’t necessarily going to be in my program because I learned a long time ago that if you want to be effective, focus on things you think can get accomplished."

The Iowa Senate has endorsed a ban on smoking at the casinos before, but it stalled in the House. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says it’s hard to predict how the 37 new members of the legislature may vote on this issue.

"They haven’t had discussions with other folks," Gronstal says, "so we’ll see when they get here, when they move towards consensus on this."...

The casino industry argued their exemption from the smoking ban was a competitiveness issue back in 2008, as casinos across the river in Illinois allowed smoking. However, Illinois now has a statewide smoking ban in place that covers the casinos as well.