Apparently the Casinos here will be the first places in Singapore to break the “No Smoking in Buildings” law. Legally. If everything goes through, this means that NEA will give the Casinos the permission to have smoking areas in its premises – and we are not talking about “smoking rooms”. Going by any other standards, as large as entire floors of the Casino will be given “smoking status” while presumably other floors will be non-smoking areas.

I am not sure if this will be the start of the law breaking up as whether other businesses will start applying for such “extraordinary permissions”; and if it does happen, then we will start seeing the disintegration of what some people fought for – a smoke free environment. I have already seen people smoking at traffic junctions, overhead bridges and outside MRT stations, oblivious to the people around them choking and coughing. I am just wondering if this is the beginning of the end.

I mean, they have their smoking rights, but non-smokers have their rights to better air and cancer-free lungs. Talking about rights will never see an end in Singapore.

CASINOS here will be one of the last holdouts for smokers who want to light up indoors, when they start operating from the end of next year.

The Government has decided to leave gaming halls out of a nationwide ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, which is being rolled out in the next few years.

But the two integrated resorts (IR) will be required to draw up ‘house rules’ to protect non-smokers.

This is likely to mean providing separate smoking and non-smoking gaming areas, as is the case in Australia.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will give its input in the making of the house rules, its spokesman told The Straits Times.

NEA would not say if there would be a cap on the amount of space to be set aside for smokers. The no-smoking rule will, however, apply in all other parts of the IRs, including restaurants and bars.

The reprieve is good news for casino operators – as many as 85 per cent of gamblers tend to be smokers as well, according to some industry estimates.

Gambling havens like Macau do not have rules regarding smoking, though some casinos provide non-smoking gaming floors.

Others are stricter. Just three days ago in the United States, Atlantic City finally pushed through legislation to ban smoking in its 11 casinos from October, though some casino operators are fighting back.

The industry claims such a move could cost it 20 per cent of revenue and put up to 3,400 people out of jobs.

The decision to exclude casinos here from the indoor smoking ban comes after almost a year of talks between NEA and the IRs, The Straits Times understands.

But the IR operators are keeping their cards close to their chests with regard to their plans on house rules.

A spokesman for Resorts World at Sentosa would say only that it has made plans to separate its smoking and non-smoking gaming areas.

‘Our casino would be designed in a way that guests could access smoking areas that are both comfortable and convenient,’ he added.

Its competitor, Marina Bay Sands, also declined to elaborate on its plans.

But one industry veteran, Mr Ramachandar Siva, who ran the casino in Genting Highlands in Malaysia for 10 years, said one option would be to create a ‘buffer zone’.

In 1995, when Genting hived off a third of its gaming area for non-smokers, a restaurant separated the two zones, he said.

Glass walls or partitions could also be used, said Mr Ramachandar, now the head of vocational casino school International Club Games Training Centre.

Smoking restrictions here have been extended gradually since 1970. Lighting up is now banned in all air-conditioned buildings, including offices and malls. Nightspots have stubbed it out too, except in specially ventilated smoking rooms, and al-fresco outlets restrict smoking to 20 per cent of the floor space.

Non-air-conditioned workplaces and public areas, including playgrounds, markets and multi-storey carparks, go smoke-free in January.

The exception being granted to casinos has prompted some to question the double standards.

Mr Dennis Foo, chief executive officer of St James Power Station, said that it gave casinos an ‘upper hand’, especially if gaming floors had lounges or bars serving food and alcohol.

jermync@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 26th April 2008



Reader's Comments

  1. Joe | April 27th, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    When there is big money to earn, anything goes. Please remember that the Government takes a much bigger cut from them as compared to the normal corporate taxes from the regular companies.

    It is about money. There is no two ways about it.

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