Fears for non-smoking workers

Under fire: James Packer. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe state government has refused to address claims that staff exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke at James Packer’s proposed casino at Barangaroo will be risking their health.

Anti-smoking groups on Monday criticised the government’s conditional approval of the $1.5 billion Crown bid, which includes smoking across the entire VIP gaming floor – an area up to 20,000 square metres, or as large as 2½ rugby league fields.

Crown says smoking in the gaming area is ”absolutely critical” if the casino is to compete with Macau, Singapore and the rest of Asia, where smoking in VIP areas is permitted.

NSW Cancer Council manager of tobacco control Scott Walsberger was disappointed that the government supported a plan where potential employees would have to choose ”between a job at the casino and their health”.

He called on all states to join in a national ban on smoking in high-roller rooms, which are exempted from anti-smoking laws.

”We aren’t even sticking with the status quo; we’re offering a new, very large casino in a very large space to get this additional exemption,” he said.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie accused Crown of ”putting profit before the health of their staff and consumers”.

”It’s such a backward step considering that we’ve had smoke-free workplaces in this country across different states for probably two decades,” she said.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner refused to comment.

Crown’s rival, The Star, enjoys a similar exemption from bans in its high-roller areas and Crown’s Melbourne high-roller area, the Mahogany Room, is exempt from Victorian anti-smoking laws.

Under a memorandum of understanding reached with union United Voice, air quality at Sydney’s Crown casino will be tested every three months and the results reported to health and safety representatives.

The test results are to be given to the government and an annual report tabled in Parliament.

Action on Smoking and Health Australia chief executive Anne Jones asked why the union’s NSW branch ”have done this deal with James Packer [for] smoking in high-roller rooms” when its national office had joined a coalition calling for exemptions to end.

Mark Boyd, secretary of the NSW branch of United Voice, said if the Crown casino was approved ”it will be a huge jobs boost for casino workers in NSW”, and the best available air quality technology would be used.

A Crown spokesman said staff at Crown Melbourne volunteered to work in the VIP areas, and only a small minority ever opted out.

They were not paid extra to work in smoking areas, he said, adding the company ”takes the issue of staff occupational health and safety extremely seriously”. Crown would offer some non-smoking tables, ”reflecting preferences of some VIP gaming customers”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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