Casinos’ smoking ‘pass’ unfair to Iowa bars

Now, after a year under Iowa’s smoking ban, business operators — including tavern owners — have learned to live with it.

Make no mistake: They hated it at first. Some still do. There were complaints and even some acts of blatant defiance, some of which are working their way through the legal system. A group of bar owners filed a court challenge, but the lawsuit was dropped. Eventually, bar and restaurant owners, like most everybody else, got used to the law. And most patrons note that it’s nice — not to mention healthy — to patronize establishments and not come out smelling of tobacco smoke.

Some bar owners state that they have lost revenue because their patrons can’t smoke inside. Is it true? State officials say it is difficult to discern the exact impact of the ban, especially since it went into effect during an economic downturn. How much of the shortfall, if any, was due to the ban and how much to the recession? While closure certainly is not the only gauge of financial performance, all sides acknowledge that few taverns have gone out of business because of the smoking ban.

As the state continues to compile information about the true impact the ban has had on tavern revenue, one fact is undeniable: The exemption enjoyed by casinos just isn’t fair.

The impetus for the ban was to safeguard the health of workers in bars and restaurants. Why then, would the health of casino workers be less important to the state than that of other citizens? Try to imagine another scenario in which a workplace health and safety regulation is applied for some workers but not others.

Even if we own up to the real reason for the exemption — to not interfere with the flow of the state’s share of gambling revenues — it is still a slap to other establishments. The state is saying to tavern owners: “Not only is smoking prohibited in your business, we’re going to let the gambling venues in your community, which serve alcohol and book entertainment as you do, continue to allow smoking.” It’s a double-whammy. Further, away from the smoke-filled main floor of a casino, the gambling establishments are allowed to stick a slot machine or two in the corner of a sports bar and, just like that, smoking is legal. Likewise for non-ticketed events in the casino bar.

It’s good to know that the smoking ban is settling into place in Iowa, and talk of repeal is fading. But the Iowa Legislature next session needs to level the playing field and examine the exemption granted casinos and how it is being manipulated.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

source: http://www.thonline.com

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