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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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Crown, Echo to vie for new Brisbane casino rights in George St redevelopment.
THE State Government says all options are on the table as casino bosses duel for Queensland's gambling market rights.
As The Courier-Mail revealed on Saturday, Crown boss James Packer has been lobbying Premier Campbell Newman in the hope of building a casino as part of the redevelopment of government buildings in George and William streets.
The push pits Crown against Treasury Casino operators Echo Entertainment which has its own $1 billion plan to redevelop the site as part of a major expansion. new Brisbane casino.
Yesterday a spokesman for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney said all options were being considered by the Government, with a decision on a casino to be made in September.
Speaking to the Nine Network yesterday, Echo Entertainment CEO John Redmond denied any knowledge of the Crown bid for a second Brisbane casino.
"I'm not worried about it," he said.
"We have a licence there (in Brisbane).
"We have the only licence there. new Brisbane casino.
"It should be one casino and one city, and that's it."
Treasury Casino managing director Geoff Hogg said they had heard "rumours" about Crown's interest in Brisbane but they were focusing on what they were doing.
"We're obviously very keen to participate in the planning process the Queensland Government announced recently," Mr Hogg said.
"We've been part of Brisbane for the last 18 or 19 years and the company is proud of what we've done.
"We will always be part of Brisbane."
He said Echo was of the firm belief that there was only room for one casino in Brisbane.
"We have a strong view that 'one city, one casino' is what's working in Australia and believe Brisbane only needs one casino," Mr Hogg said. new Brisbane casino.
"If we were able to relocate the (Treasury) casino to a new location we could expand our tourism offering to have more hotel rooms, more bars, more function facilities."
What would then become of the heritage-listed former Treasury building for which Echo holds a lease until 2070, would be a matter for the government.
"We think the opportunities for that site would be quite endless," Mr Hogg said.
Retail giant Westfield is one of the companies believed to be eyeing off the Treasury building but a spokeswoman said it would not be making any comment.
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Sydney's second casino one step closer
SYDNEY'S second casino is one step closer to opening its doors after the NSW government entered into a binding agreement for James Packer's $1.5 billion development.
The third stage of the approval process for Mr Packer's Crown Group project was signed off on Monday.
The restricted gaming development will include a luxury six-star hotel and VIP-only casino at Barangaroo.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said legislation would be introduced into parliament this week to enable the casino's approval.
"What we have agreed is to introduce legislation for a restricted gaming facility to be allowed to operate at Barangaroo south from November 2019," he said.
Mr Packer, Crown Resorts chairman, said in a statement he was going to do everything he could to make Crown Sydney the best hotel in the world.
"I am humbled that we have reached formal agreement with the New South Wales government," he said.
"We believe that Crown Sydney will help attract Asian high net worth travellers to Sydney, in particular from China, creating economic growth, extra taxes and over 1200 jobs for the people of New South Wales."
A independent assessment committee assessed earlier this year Crown's bid as well as plans Echo Entertainment, owner of Sydney's existing casino The Star, put forward.
The committee - chaired by former banking chief David Murray - found Crown's contribution to gross state product and tax was 26 per cent and 31 per cent larger than Echo's respectively.
Mr O'Farrell said on Monday minimum bet standards would apply to Crown's casino.
For baccarat, the minimum bet would be $30 but that equated to an hourly betting minimum of more than $2000, Mr O'Farrell said.
"This is as we said when approving stage two about the Asian-based high-range gaming market," he said.
"It's about high worth individuals. It's about that tourism which Australia catches a very small part of and NSW is determined to be a bigger part."
The government says at least $1 billion will be gained in the first 15 years from licence fees and gaming taxes.
Mr O'Farrell said statutory approvals were still needed from liquor and gaming authority and planning consent for construction, which would include public consultation.
But NSW Greens MP John Kaye said the approval process to date had been anything but independent and accountable.
"It is not surprising NSW is a step closer to another casino with all of the corruption risks, all of the gaming risks and all of the economic risks it brings with it," he told AAP.
Sydney Business Chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe welcomed the announcement.
She said if the state was not attracting the high rollers there were plenty of other locations for them to go.
"It's restricting the casino to the so-called high rollers, so it's restricting the gambling to a very narrow group," she told AAP.
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