Gazette Editorial Board
When unveiling the latest plans for Cedar Crossing Casino, investors were quick to emphasize its uniqueness. Yet as different and striking as the proposed urban concept appears to be, it’s disappointingly similar to Iowa’s existing casinos in at least one aspect.
Even though smoking is allowed on casino floors statewide, we had hoped investors would change their mind for the Cedar Rapids facility. Cedar Crossing’s recently filed license application to the Racing and Gaming Commission shows they haven’t.
“Smoking will be restricted to areas where there is proper ventilation and fire suppression equipment,” the application states. “In accordance with the Iowa Smoke-free Act, and Iowa Department of Health, fire rules and regulations will be strictly adhered to in non-smoking areas.”
In the five years since the Smoke-free Act took effect, virtually all places of business — including restaurants, bowling alleys and bars — as well as public facilities have adjusted to rules prohibiting indoor smoking. Patrons have adjusted their expectations. And many of those businesses report more customers, not fewer, as had been feared.
Prohibiting smoking in casinos would be fairer to all businesses. It also would be more in keeping with Cedar Rapids’ designation as a Blue Zones demonstration site, aimed at raising the community’s overall well-being, and the governor’s Healthiest State Initiative. So far, those things haven’t convinced the Cedar Rapids Development Group to pass on the casino exemption and plan a smoke-free facility anyway.
When we asked lead investor Steve Gray if his group might reconsider, he wrote in a response that smoking would be allowed only in specific areas of the gaming floor.
“We will use state-of-the-art air handling systems to keep the environment welcoming to smokers and non-smokers alike.”
We still hope there’s wriggle-room in the Cedar Rapids plan. Meanwhile, the biggest hurdle remains: the state law. It’s well past time for legislators to finally close the loophole and ban smoking in all state-licensed casinos.
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