Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Victoria’s Gaming Industry – Above the Law?,5478,6257537%255E2862,00.html

Policing cigarette smoking in a large, dark indoor area that is subdivided into narrow alleys may not be the easiest task. Perhaps because of this, the fine on the venue for failing to enforce the no-smoking ban in gaming venues is a relatively nominal $500. Presumably also, the offence is not one of strict liability, and only crystallises when the venue acts either in complicity with the punter (by knowingly allowing them to continue to smoke), or negligently (by reckless indifference to whether the punter may be smoking).

The Herald-Sun’s investigation suggests that the 90% of venues that are breaking the no-smoking law are doing so in a calculated, deliberate way – the “We didn’t notice it on that occasion, but we are really trying” quasi-excuse just doesn’t wash. Thus, given then gaming venues are knowingly breaking the law, what gives?

Certainly not the Victorian government, which managed, in the logic limbo stakes, to go even under Crown Casino CEO Gary O'Neill’s statement that “the fact that pokie industry revenue had fallen about 20 per cent since the bans were enforced showed people were adhering to the rules”. Quite.

According to a spokesman for Victorian Health Minister, Bronwyn Pike: "It's a concern that anybody is flouting the smoking bans but this is the first six months of the new regime". Errr, apart from the fact that such a (entirely unofficial) six-month honeymoon expired on 28 February this year, there is the matter of the legal assumption of the risk of recalcitrant or ignorant smokers by the gaming venues – the enforcement “buck” starts, and stops with the venues – and no body else. Except, it seems, the Victorian government – which by its craven passivity has single-handedly devalued the enforcement “buck” to about two cents worth.

Which is just what is supposed to happen to any ordinary Jo(e) who visits a casino or pokie barn, I guess. But as for those who pimp off gaming venue earnings, such as the Victorian government, I say: may the blood ever gargle forth from your froth-corrupted lungs.

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