New Laws Limit Casino Workers Minimum Wage in Iowa

Iowa legislators have passed on a bill that fixes the minimum wage for casino employees in the state at $9.06 even if the federal minimum wage goes up. 

Did Casino Employee Draw the Short Stick in Iowa? 

Casino workers in Iowa are facing new challenges to hourly pay as the legislature voted last week to set a fixed minimum wage at gaming properties at $9.06 or 125% of the minimum federal age at the time of voting. The rate will become permanent as of December 31 this year and will remain unchanged even if the current wage is changed. 

Representative Chris Hall objected to the decision, arguing that maintaining a low minimum wage sent the wrong message, especially when it pertained to a workforce as large as that of casinos. Hall was also the only representative to speak against the vote and make a case for casino employees who, in his words, face unique challenges today.

He argued that the customer base that casinos attract requires a specific attitude and approach that casino employees have to learn and then put into practice on a daily basis. Hall called these challenges “pretty complex” and continued by explaining that casinos are the only place in Iowa where workers, who may not be smokers, still have to put up with tobacco smoke. 

The Iowa Gaming Association also pitched in the debate, arguing that the usual wage for casino employees federally is around $9.00, but should that federal minimum wage go to $15, under pre-voting rules, it would force gaming properties to pay $18.75 per hour – a rather tall order for many casinos to meet.

Finding Casino Workers Post-Pandemic Proves Difficult

Iowa’s legislators have also agreed to lift state taxes on bonuses and promotions. In other words, a tax that charged promotional offers extended to customers, such as a $100 gambling credit, is no longer going to apply, giving Iowa’s gaming properties another relief so far as taxation goes. 

It’s in this context that casinos nationally have struggled to find employees. Mississippi and Las Vegas casinos are facing shortages of capable employees who can help businesses restart operations at full capacity.

Resorts World Las Vegas was at one point looking for 6,000 employees in anticipation of overcoming the pandemic and tourism bouncing right back throughout 2021. Some were more prescient, though, and Las Vegas Sands decided to not only keep employees but also pay their benefits back in 2020

Eventually, Las Vegas Sands mulled and proceeded with the sale of its Strip properties, looking to expand into sports betting, online gambling, and pursuing a still-negotiated casino project in Texas. Casino workers’ minimum wages are a sensitive topic but one that should be broached and argued for as Rep. Hall did last week. 

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