CORONAVIRUS

Half of Iowa casinos now require face masks

Some are offering free face coverings to guests

Jean Brown plays a gaming machine in June at Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport. All of Iowa's casinos, closed for m
Jean Brown plays a gaming machine in June at Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport. All of Iowa’s casinos, closed for months during the pandemic, are now open and engcouraging guests to wear masks or face coverings. Eleven casinos are now requiring face coverings, including the four casinos operated by Native American tribes, which also temporarily banned smoking. (Jessica Gallagher/Quad-City Times)
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More than half of Iowa’s 23 casinos are requiring guests to wear face masks.

Twelve casinos are now requiring face masks inside gambling areas, casinos, according to an analysis of coronavirus-related policies posted on the casinos’ websites.

Three of the casinos requiring masks — including the casino in Riverside south of Iowa City — limit the mandate to situations where guests cannot maintain a 6-foot social distance.

Another 11 Iowa casinos are not requiring face masks but say they are encouraging or recommending guests wear them.

At least two of the casinos say they are offering masks to guests for free.

Public health and infectious disease experts, as well as some early studies, say wearing face masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 40,000 Iowans have contracted the coronavirus at some point during the global pandemic, and 808 Iowans have died of it.

“Those kinds of efforts and initiatives are evolving constantly and should be,” said Wes Ehrecke, president and chief executive officer 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.”

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The casinos that are requiring guests wear face masks, according to policies posted online, are:

• Blackbird Bend Casino in Onawa

• Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort in Larchwood

• Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos in Council Bluffs

• Isle Casino Hotels in Bettendorf and Waterloo

• Meskwaki Bingo Casino in Tama

• Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake

• Prairie Meadows in Altoona

• Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport

• Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside

• WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan

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 and Casino in Sioux City

• Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola

• Q Casino in Dubuque

• Wild Rose casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson

» MUST WEAR MASKS: List of Iowa stores requiring customers to wear masks

Each casino also has other virus-related policies and practices. Most are requiring workers to wear masks, and all 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.

No smoking

The four casinos operated by Native American tribes in Iowa — Blackbird Bend, WinnaVegas, Meskwaki and Prairie Flower — have taken the extra step of temporarily banning smoking inside the casinos, though guests can smoke outside the buildings, 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.

“We applaud the decision of the owners of these four casinos for adopting a smoke-free workplace policy as they reopen 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.”

Comments: (563) 333-2659; erin.murphy@lee.net

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