Live Updates: WinnaVegas Asks Unvaccinated To Wear Masks; Prairie Meadows Continues With Mandate For All Guests

Written By Russ Mitchell on July 30, 2021 - Last Updated on September 22, 2021

Iowa’s largest casino began requiring indoor face mask use starting at 8 a.m. Aug. 1. But, the state’s other casinos aren’t following the lead of Prairie Meadows Racetrack, Casino & Resort just yet.

Prairie Meadows let customers know about the mask policy through a Facebook post at about 8:30 a.m. July 30. The racetrack and casino complex is located in Altoona near Des Moines:

“Per CDC guidelines, Prairie Meadows will require all guests and employees to wear a face covering effective Sunday, Aug. 1 at 8 a.m. Face masks will be available for purchase at the gift shop and hotel pantry. At Prairie Meadows, our guest and employee safety are our number one priority.”

Do you have to wear a mask in Iowa casinos?

Most Iowa casinos “encourage,” “recommend,” but don’t mandate. Here are where IA casinos sit on health and safety protocols as of Sept. 1:

  • Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs: Masks aren’t required for individuals who are fully vaccinated. Masks are still strongly encouraged for those who are not vaccinated. Masks are available upon request at the casino entrance.
  • Casino Queen Marquette: No announced changes.
  • Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington: Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
  • Diamond Jo casinos in Worth County and Dubuque: Masks are mandatory for unvaccinated guests and must be worn covering your mouth and nose, including when not actively eating, drinking or smoking. Fully vaccinated guests are not required to wear masks.
  • Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood and Riverside Casino: The Elite casinos recommend that guests review the latest CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health information before visiting … Masks are optional.
  • Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City: Masks are encouraged for team members and guests on the casino floor.
  • Horseshoe and Harrah’s Council Bluffs, Isle of Capri casinos in Bettendorf and Waterloo: Caesars Entertainment has maintained strict adherence to CDC, state, local and regulatory guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Lakeside Casino in Osceola: No announced changes.
  • Q Casino in Dubuque: No announced changes.
  • Wild Rose casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg and Jefferson: No announced changes.
  • Meskwaki Bingo Hotel in Tama: Guests who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 won’t be required to wear a mask while on the property.
  • Prairie Flower Casino in Carter Lake: Masks are a voluntary safety measure and the casino has them available.
  • Blackbird Bend Casino in Onawa: Masks are optional. Fully vaccinated guests do not need to wear a mask. The casino strongly encourages unvaccinated guests to wear masks. It’s not a requirement, however.
  • WinnaVegas Casino Resort: Guests who have been vaccinated are no longer required to wear a face mask, based on the honor system. All employees will be wearing masks. Smoking is allowed for guests who have been vaccinated.

Facebook users sound off on Prairie Meadows casino mask policy

The Facebook post from Prairie Meadows had more than 150 reactions and 100 comments in its first four hours. About two-thirds of the emoji reactions were positive. Comment section users were widely critical of Prairie Meadow’s decision, however.

Some questioned the timing:

“That virus is smart — it’s waiting till Sunday to get you… You are fine today (Friday) and tomorrow.”

“Ah yes, Effective Sunday August 1 at 8 AM, because It’s not an issue Saturday July 31st, at 8am. If it’s so important, then why isn’t it effective immediately?”

Others wondered if the casino had the legal authority to enforce a mask mandate. Meanwhile, some Facebook users pointed to a possible contradiction between permitted indoor smoking and the mask policy.

“So can people still smoke? Cause if they can lower their mask to smoke does it really make a difference?”

Still, others simply said they wouldn’t be back:

“Guess I will be saving money again. See ya when you make it an option again.”

There were supportive comments, including: “Come on people. It isn’t that serious to raise your blood pressure over having to wear a mask, is it? Just mask up and have a good time.”

Prairie Meadows pulled in a state-leading $206.7 million in adjusted gross revenue for the fiscal year that ended in June. As of midday Friday, it remains the only Iowa casino to explicitly announce that masks will be required.

Other casinos in Iowa widely stopped short of the safety measures in Altoona. Most location managers want unvaccinated customers to wear masks inside.

Federal, Iowa leaders differ on mask responses

Policies keep evolving. Be sure to check casino home pages and social media accounts if mask use is important to your experience.

The CDC issued new guidelines because of COVID-19’s delta variant. Researchers think it reached the US in March. It originated in India at the end of last year:

“These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.”

To maximize protection from the delta variant, the CDC wants fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds disagrees with the CDC’s position, however. She issued a July 27 statement voicing her concerns:

“The Biden Administration’s new COVID-19 guidance telling fully vaccinated Iowans to now wear masks is not only counterproductive to our vaccination efforts but also not grounded in reality or common sense. I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support.”

Photo by Charlie Neibergall / AP
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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