Illinois smokers using Iowa casinos - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Illinois smokers using Iowa casinos

Dubuque (KWWL) -- A pre-filed bill in the Iowa house could knock smoking out of casinos, if it passes. Casino officials say they would feel the burn if the law changed, in the form of lost revenue.

The Illinois Gaming Board says its state's smoking ban is a big part of what drove revenue down just over 20% last year. Some casino officials say the reason might be gamblers coming to Iowa where they can smoke inside.

The Iowa Tourism Division finds half of the gamblers in casinos are from neighboring states, so Iowa's casinos might be profiting from smokers crossing the border.

Six months ago, smoking went out the door for Iowa businesses, casinos excluded. Six months before that, Illinois went smoke free, casinos included.

"When the smoking ban took effect in the state of Illinois, we had patrons that came in here from Illinois and said they specifically came to the state of Iowa to game because they could smoke on the gaming floor," Joey Anderson with Dubuque Greyhound Park and Casino said.

Comparing month to month in 2007 to 2008, Illinois casinos saw a decrease in adjusted gross revenue every month since the ban. But totalling Iowa's casinos, a month to month comparison shows a rise in revenue. The only exception: a small decrease in September.

Casino officials say some of the revenue lost in Illinois may have crossed the Mississippi.

"Once the smoking ban took effect in the state of Illinois, we saw about three percent higher in our carded players from Illinois than we had the previous year," Anderson said.

Casino officials here don't want to see the drop that Illinois casinos are facing and want smoking to stay.

"Certainly there is a correlation between gambling and smoking, so I think the implications here on the gaming floor would be felt," Anderson said.

Throughout legislative smoking ban discussions, the gaming industry has maintained any venue for people over 21 should be able to allow smoking: a position they are ready to stick to if the issue comes up again.

Not everyone supports smoking in iowa Casinos. Anti-smoking groups say casino workers are more at risk for heart and lung diseases because they work in closed-in areas near smokers.

A representaive from Marshalltown is proposing a bill that would expand the smoking ban to include casinos. Legislative leaders say there will be no change in the Smoke-Free Air Act in 2009.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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