Clubs facing challenge
By ED SOUTHORN
NEW anti-smoking laws have forced Tweed clubs to spend a fortune on outdoor smoking areas so that gambling smokers won't be turned away.
The South Tweed Sports Club is the latest club to receive Tweed Shire Council approval for a "dedicated smokers' area", ahead of new state government laws banning all smoking inside clubs in 2007.
STSC chief executive Gordon Rhodes yesterday said at least half of the pokies players at his revitalised riverside bowls, dining and entertainment venue were smokers.
Mr Rhodes said the club would spend about $70,000 from accumulated funds for an upstairs smokers' deck for 60 to 80 people and for a smaller downstairs indoor-outdoor smoking area, both expected to be completed by the middle of next year.
"It's money we'd prefer not to spend, but if we don't spend it we'd lose a lot more money not providing an outlet for smokers," Mr Rhodes said.
The Tweed's largest club organisation, the Twin Towns Services Club and Club Banora, has already spent about $1 million updating its premises to accommodate the anti-smoking laws.
At Twin Towns, the changes include new non-smoking lounges and extra balcony space and at Club Banora a new beer garden and smokers' balconies.
Tweed Clubs chairman and Twin Towns general manager Rob Smith said the costly structural changes were "in direct response" to the anti-smoking legislation.
As well as the smoking-related expenditure, Tweed clubs are anticipating revenue downturns of around 17 per cent because of the anti-smoking laws, Mr Smith said.
The percentage estimate is based on revenue shrinkage in Victoria and New Zealand after similar laws were introduced.
Mr Smith said NSW government budget papers had forecast an eight per cent fall in gaming revenues in 2007 as a direct result of anti-smoking legislation.
He agreed most people accepted smoking was unhealthy and clubs were "wearing the impact of the anti-smoking debate".
Seagulls general manager Wayne Kendrigan said his organisation hoped to submit a development application to Tweed Shire Council next week for a $9.5 million buildings upgrade, partly driven by the new anti-smoking laws, although the construction work, including outdoor smoking areas, was mainly due to a need to "upgrade our premises to meet the changing demographics of the Tweed".
Mr Kendrigan said Seagulls "needs a facelift", to be funded from borrowings.
He estimated the proportion of smoking gamblers at Seagulls was "close to 70 per cent."