People who love to gamble but who hate having to deal with the cigarette smoke present in most casinos can now enjoy Western Iowa’s first non-smoking room at the WinnaVegas Casino Resort.
Up until about a week ago, the casino located near Sloan, Iowa, which is owned and operated by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, along with all of the state’s other casinos, allowed smoking on their gaming floors. That was before the idea for a smoke-free room took off about three weeks ago. In just three days, the maintenance team at WinnaVegas relocated more than 70 slot machines to the new non-smoking room and it was open for business.
While at one time slot play and smoking were synonymous, more casinos across the U.S., that aren’t already smoke-free, are adding non-smoking rooms due the growing market for such areas in casinos. Gamblers at WinnaVegas are all over the idea that was implemented a week ago at the casino. The casino’s marketing director, Travis Morgan, said that people love the non-smoking room that they’ve been waiting a long time for. He said, “They can actually come to a place and gamble completely smoke-free. We have something that nobody else really has. It’s the exact same gaming experience and you’re not going to miss a beat. This is perfect,” according to KCAU Siouxland Matters.
Gaming floors were exempted from the state law that went into effect July 1, 2008, which prohibits smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants, and businesses. It’s still a hot topic and one that is highly debated in Iowa where lawmakers are pushing bills that would force casinos to comply with the state’s Smokefree Air Act. Those efforts, however, have been opposed by officials with the state-licensed casinos, who say that a smoking ban inside the casinos would put them at a competitive disadvantage. The Sloan casino, along with the BlackBird Bend Casino near Onawa owned and operated by the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and the Meskwaki Bingo & Casino, owned and operated by the Sac & Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa, are not state licensed and therefore not subject to state laws and regulations.
Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa Gaming Association, has previously estimated that Iowa’s 18 state-licensed casinos could potentially lose as much as 20 to 30 percent of their revenues if smokers are no longer permitted to light up, according to the Sioux City Journal. In addition, the amount of state taxes paid annually by casinos would decrease substantially and it could also cause a substantial loss of casino jobs, according to Ehrecke. One casino that would be hit hard by the smoking ban is the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City, which opened in 2014.
WinneVegas marketing director anticipates the casino will attract more gamblers from nearby casinos where there is no option to gamble smoke-free.