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Branstad pessimistic about banning smoking in casinos

Publication Date: 2014-09-30
  • Author:Tony Leys
  • Publication:Des Moines Register

Gov. Terry Branstad reiterated Tuesday that smoking should be banned from casinos, but he warned public health advocates not to get their hopes up.

"I'm a realist. I can tell you you're up against one of the most powerful and prosperous industries," he said of the casinos. "…They have a huge amount of clout. They have a lot of money. They have a lot of impact."

The Iowa Legislature exempted casinos in 2008 when it voted to ban smoking from most workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Since then, casinos have beaten back all attempts to expand the ban. They contend that they would lose significant business if they banned smoking, which would cause the loss of jobs and state tax revenue...

Frelund said afterward that it's unfair for casino employees to face the health risks of working in smoky environments when workers in other businesses have been spared. She said other states, including Illinois, have banned smoking in casinos, and she expressed hope that Iowa would join them someday.

Frelund said she appreciated Branstad's support but wished he could persuade legislators to change their votes. "He's not our problem," she said, agreeing with him that the casino industry holds tremendous power in the Statehouse. "It's like fighting the 500-pound gorilla."

In an interview after the forum, the governor said some people falsely think he can order legislative leaders around. "Just because they're the same party doesn't mean that I can necessarily get their support on everything," he said. He predicted that the most likely way to pass a casino smoking ban would be to include it in a bargain with the industry...

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