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17 October 2011

Smoking rules eased a puff at Crown Casino - 17th October 2011

Profiles

Crown Casino Crown Limited James Packer Politics Melbourne Gaming


Smoking in and around gambling dens in Australia continues to be a hot topic. Media Man investigates...

Crown Casino has been granted exemptions from smoking bans on four separate floors of the casino complex.

Crown Casino has been kindly granted exemptions from smoking bans on four separate floors of the casino complex...despite an election promise by the Baillieu government to review the casino’s special five star treatment.

Health Minister David Davis recently approved smoking in "high roller" or "whale VIP" areas on the ground floor and level one of the casino and on levels 29 and 39 of Crown Towers. Former health minister and now Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews approved similar exemptions for the casino last year.

Crown is the only poker / slot machine venue in Victoria where smoking is allowed.

It also enjoys a more favourable tax rate on its 2500 poker machines, is the only venue allowed to operate 24 hours a day and can make larger cash payments from its machines.

In the lead-up to last year’s election, the Coalition promised to examine "Crown Casino’s exemptions ... to ensure that gambling regulation is as consistent as possible".

"It is an important principle that, insofar as it is appropriate, gambling regulation be consistent across the state and across various modes of gambling. This is particularly so when considering measures that are designed to address problem gambling," the election promise said. Almost 12 months on from the election, the review of Crown’s special treatment is yet to begin.

Premier Ted Baillieu and Gaming Minister Michael O’Brien have also refused to detail discussions they have had with Crown Casino boss James Packer about poker machine reforms proposed by the Tasmanian federal MP, Andrew Wilkie.

The Baillieu government will not rule out a legal challenge to Mr Wilkie’s poker machine reforms, which could include mandatory cards forcing players to pre-set how much they are prepared to lose or low-intensity poker machines. Mr Packer has been actively lobbying federal and state MPs over the proposals.

Mr O’Brien told Fairfax owned The Age the review of Crown’s exemptions would begin "either the second half of this year or early next year".

"There is no doubt that Crown is treated a little differently from other gambling venues; there have been arguments put forward as to why there is good reason for that because of Crown’s mecca as a tourist destination," he said.

"I just think when things have been in place for quite some time it is always useful to have another look at them to see if the reasons you originally introduced them for still apply and if they are still appropriate," he said.

InterChurch Gambling Taskforce’s Mark Zirnsak said it was disappointing the Baillieu government had exempted Crown again from smoking bans.

"I think if employees were to suffer health effects down the track they would be wise to look at their legal options," he said.

He called on the government to review all of Crown’s exemptions.

"It is long overdue to have a review and what’s disappointing here is the same cosy relationship Crown enjoyed with the previous Victorian government appears to continue unabated with the new Baillieu government," he said.

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