Crown Sydney’s smoking exemption called into question
An exemption granted to Crown’s forthcoming casino in Sydney has drawn the ire of anti-smoking campaigners.
The Brisbane Times reports that the NSW government has defended its decision to allow Crown Sydney’s all-VIP gaming floor to function as an indoor smoking area, described as larger than the Sydney Cricket Ground’s playing surface, at about 20,000 square metres.
Cancer Council NSW tobacco control unit manager Alecia Brooks said the exemption for high roller gaming rooms was contrary to global public health evidence and put the health of employees and patrons at serious risk.
But the NSW government and Crown maintain smoking in VIP gaming areas is required for the casino to “remain competitive”.
A spokesman for Liquor and Gaming NSW said smoking would be permitted in gaming areas of the new casino “so it can remain competitive in the international VIP gaming market.”
“Private gaming areas at The Star and interstate casinos have also been exempted from general indoor smoking bans,” he said.
He also said Crown Sydney was required to install and maintain air quality equipment of an “international best practice standard”, and to have this equipment independently tested every three months.
A Crown spokeswoman said the exemption from smoking restrictions in VIP gaming areas allowed Crown Sydney to “remain competitive” as Australian and international casinos allow smoking in VIP gaming areas.
“Sophisticated air quality technology” has been installed in the casino, which will be tested by an independent expert, she said, and non-smoking areas will also be provided.
Smoking poses risk to employees and players, cancer council said
Ms Brooks said smoking was not permitted inside casinos in Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia, while overseas casinos in locations such as Macau were moving to restrict smoking.
“The revenue is not a justifiable argument when it leaves workers and patrons exposed to dangerous second-hand smoke,” she said.
The Crown spokeswoman declined to confirm the exact size of the casino’s indoor smoking area.
In September, the company told the Australian Stock Exchange that gaming operations will consist of 30 table games across 12 private gaming salons within the tower and 129 table games and 66 electronic table game terminals in two gaming rooms within the podium of Crown Sydney.
Questions about the smoking exemption came as Crown faces a NSW government inquiry into whether it should keep the licence for its new Barangaroo casino, due to open in December.
The Star casino also has an exemption from the NSW government to offer indoor smoking in a number of private gaming salons, which a spokesman said were used predominantly by international VIP players.
“These salons represent just over 5 per cent of the casino areas within The Star Sydney and they are not accessible to the general public,” he said.
“A growing number of casino guests preferred a non-smoking environment,” he said.
NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker said the “deadly exemption” was originally granted in 2013 on the basis that Crown needed a smoking venue to attract wealthy Asian high rollers.
“But now all that is needed to gain access to the so-called VIP rooms is the willingness to spend only $20 per hand at blackjack,” he said.
Labor’s health spokesman Ryan Park said in a statement there is no safe level of smoking.
“We will be monitoring and reviewing this, and working with workers and their representatives to protect workplace health and safety,” he said.