THE high rollers room at Sydney’s Star casino will remain exempt from anti-smoking laws after an amendment to have it included in a new NSW ban was voted down in state parliament.
James Packer, who owns a stake in The Star through his Crown casino group, this week met with key crossbenchers from the Christian Democrats and Shooters Party to lobby against a Labor and Greens push to scrap the smoking exemption.
A smoking ban would be a big blow to attracting wealthy Asian high rollers to The Star.
It would also damage Mr Packer’s push to build a «six-star» hotel and casino on Sydney’s Barangaroo site, which would be targeted at the lucrative high rollers market.Star casino.
The NSW upper house on Wednesday night voted for the government’s suite of new smoking bans, which will from January disallow smoking in playgrounds, public sports grounds, swimming pools, transport stops and entrances to public buildings.
The new laws will also ban smoking in outdoor dining areas from 2015.
But a Labor amendment to include The Star in the smoking ban was voted down, after MPs from the Christian Democrats and Shooters Party sided with the government to retain the casino’s existing smoking exemption.
The Christian Democrats’ Fred Nile said he did not support a smoking ban for The Star because he had been assured no casino worker would be forced to work in the high rollers room.
«There is a waiting list of employees to work in those rooms because they are what they regard as the high standard staff area,» Reverend Nile said.
His Christian Democrat colleague Paul Green defended having met Mr Packer.
«I don’t care how rich or poor (a stakeholder is), they deserve a say, and the Christian Democratic Party offered that opportunity for the stakeholders to have a say,» Mr Green said.
Greens MP John Kaye said The Star casino exemption did not respect the health and safety of people working in the high rollers rooms.
«It appears that here in NSW health runs a very poor second to Jamie Packer’s lust for profits,» Dr Kaye told the upper house.
«Here in NSW workers health and safety are compromised in order to feed Mr Jamie Packer’s incredible desires for profits.
«It is Jamie Packer’s political power in this chamber that will stop the legislation being amended.»
But government MP Melinda Pavey said the health minister reviewed the exemption each year, staff would not be forced to work in the high rollers room, and banning smoking would disadvantage The Star against its interstate competitors.
«At Melbourne’s Crown Star casino, the Queensland casinos and Western Australia’s Burswood Casino, exemptions remain in place in the private gaming areas,» she said.
«These are The Star’s main competition in the premium player market.»
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