18 Aug 2011

Gamblers to be allowed to smoke in casino

9:19 pm on 18 August 2011

Anti-gambling groups are outraged at a plan by New Zealand's biggest casino to let people smoke and play gaming machines at the same time.

Auckland's Sky City has permission from the Gambling Commission to build an outdoor structure that has louvres and is open to the fresh air, allowing pokie players to smoke.

The Problem Gambling foundation says it is extremely disappointed at Sky City for letting people light up while playing.

Spokesperson Andree Froude says the move goes against nationwide efforts to stop smoking and will fuel people's addiction to gaming machines.

"We have to question what kind of host responsibility Sky City is demonstrating here. They're not only allowing gamblers to smoke, but they're keeping them at the machines.

Ms Froude says smoking breaks are better, because they give problem gamblers a chance to reflect on how much they have lost, making them less likely to "zone out" and spend all their money.

The Smokefree Coalition the plan is a big step backwards in the fight to make New Zealand smoke-free and the casino is acting unethically and being irresponsible.

Coalition director Prudence Stone says the evidence shows if people can perform several addictive behaviours at once, the addictive effects are magnified and people want to smoke more when they are gambling.

Dr Stone says the coalition is joining forces with the Problem Gambling Foundation to stop more such structures opening.

However, Sky City's chief executive Nigel Morrison says he expects the room with 60 machines to be popular.

"That's a first for us to be able to achieve that. We have a lot of customers who want to do that and we're pleased to be able to say we can now do it for you."

Mr Morrison says the idea could be applied elsewhere on the site and at other Sky City casinos.