Plans for an open air gambling area at Sydney’s Star City Casino have sparked criticism from anti-smoking groups who want the New South Wales Government to ban smoking and gambling at the same time.
In response to smoking restrictions introduced last July, the casino lodged a development application with the City of Sydney to convert one of its restaurants into an „open space“ gambling lounge.
The plan is believed to involve shifting 130 of the casino’s 1500 gaming machines to an area where smoking is permitted.
„Unfortunately, we don’t have a law like Queensland which specifically bans poker machines in smoking areas,“ Action on Smoking and Health chief Anne Jones said.
„We have been raising our concerns with the Iemma Government for several months now because what has become apparent is that there is a number of pubs and clubs which are moving their poker machines into their outdoor smoking areas.
„If the Government doesn’t stop this trend we will just see all or most of NSW‘s poker machines moved into smoking areas.“
The office of Premier Morris Iemma said it was a matter for Gaming and Racing Minister Graham West, and while Mr West was not available to comment, his office made his stance clear.
„Outdoor gaming in NSW is not illegal and the Government has no intention of changing that,“ a spokesman said.
Casino spokesman Peter Grimshaw said the development application was driven purely by commercial demand.
„The aim of the exercise is to create an outdoor area where customers can play and smoke,“ Mr Grimshaw said.
„That’s what our customers have told us they want, it’s what they are able to get elsewhere and we have to remain competitive in this market.
„We are moving less than 10 per cent of our machines and the overwhelming majority will still remain non-smoking machines.“
The proposed redevelopment of the casino’s Pyrmont’s Restaurant will be undercover but have large doors that can be opened to create an „open air“ space that meets smoking legislation guidelines.
„We know that problem gamblers have very high smoking rates. This is basically setting up areas for addicted people so they don’t have to walk away from machines,“ Ms Jones said.
„If gamblers go outside to smoke, what we have seen in Victoria is about a 10 per cent revenue drop in gambling … the NSW Government is scared of that.
„One arm of the Government is helping to reduce smoking rates and another arm under gaming is moving to encourage smoking by all means possible.“