By Ian Neubauer
Registered clubs suffered another blow on Friday (September 19) after the NSW Supreme Court rejected a test case to allow smoking in partially covered indoor areas.
ClubsNSW championed efforts by Dubbo RSL to counter Health Department instructions to ban smoking in a recently refurbished terrace that opened onto a courtyard.
The Dubbo RSL was one of hundreds of registered clubs across the state that collectively invested more than $400 million to refurbish gaming areas to prevent poker machine players from leaving the premises to smoke.
The investments were meant to remedy a shortfall in gaming revenue hat have brought the future of registerd clubs into question since anti-smoking laws were introduced in July last year. It has resulted in the sector posting its worst financial year on record, with revenue down 11 per cent and 25 clubs closing or amalgamating with neighbouring venues.
The court ruled smoking should not be allowed inside the Dubbo RSL’s gaming terrace or TAB outdoor areas because the ceilings were enclosed even though the walls opened up onto outdoor areas.
“If the area in question is not covered by a roof, the opportunity is available for smoke to disperse to the atmosphere,” the court ruled. “However, when the relevant place has a roof the smoke may only escape laterally, and the extent of lateral openings becomes the critical issue affecting the healthiness of the premises.”
ClubsNSW chief executive David Costello said he was disappointed with the decision, adding that the community benefits of indoor smoking bans would be compromised because smokers in clubs would now be forced onto footpaths. He said he would consult with its legal team before making a detailed comment.
To read the judgment can in full, click here.