DES MOINES -- More than half of Iowa’s 23 casinos are requiring guests to wear face masks while inside the casino.
According to an analysis of the casinos’ coronavirus-related policies posted on their websites, 12 casinos are now requiring all guests wear face masks inside the casinos. Some of the requirements say the mask mandate is in effect whenever guests are within 6 feet of each other.
Another 11 casinos are not requiring face masks but say they are encouraging or recommending guests wear them.
Some casinos are providing masks to guests who do not arrive with one.
Public health and infectious disease experts, as well as some early studies, say wearing face masks helps prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.
As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 40,000 Iowans had contracted the coronavirus at some point during the global pandemic, and 808 Iowans had died of COVID-19.
“Those kinds of efforts and initiatives are evolving constantly and should be,” said Wes Ehrecke, president and CEO of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents 19 casinos across the state. “I believe we’re trying to provide that entertainment experience in as accommodating but also responsible a fashion as possible.”
The casinos that are requiring guests wear face masks, according to their policies posted online, are Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood; Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos in Council Bluffs; Isle Casino Hotels in Bettendorf and Waterloo; Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake; Prairie Meadows in Altoona; Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport; Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside; Meskwaki Bingo Casino in Tama; Blackbird Bend Casino in Onawa; and WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan.
The casinos that are not requiring masks but are encouraging or recommending that guests wear them are Ameristar Casino Hotel in Council Bluffs; Casino Queen in Marquette; Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington; Diamond Jo casinos in Dubuque and Northwood; Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City; Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola; Q Casino in Dubuque; and the Wild Rose casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson.
Each casino also has other virus-related policies and practices. Most are requiring workers to wear masks, and many are employing other social distancing measures and frequently sanitizing gaming areas.
“I think the overriding thing here is that every casino has put in extensive protocols and procedures for the safety of their patrons and of their staff,” Ehrecke said.
Four casinos — Blackbird Bend, WinnaVegas, Meskwaki and Prairie Flower — have taken the extra step of also banning smoking, according to the American Lung Association.
Those four casinos are not governed by state regulations. State-regulated casinos are exempt from the state’s smoke-free law.
Casinos are the only businesses that are exempted from Iowa’s smoke-free law.
“We applaud the decision of the owners of these four casinos for adopting a smoke-free workplace policy as they re-open after COVID-19 forced businesses to shut their doors,” American Lung Association advocacy director Kristina Hamilton said in a news release. “This policy will protect the health of workers and customers from dangerous secondhand smoke and e-cigarette emissions, and we call for the permanent adoption of this policy.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated to more accurately characterize the mask policies at some casinos.