Coffs clubs hit by smoking ban

PATRONS may be healthier but the profits are not, with Coffs Coast clubs recording a downturn in revenue one year after indoor smoking bans came into force.

Woolgoolga RSL Chief Executive officer Glenn Buckley said the smoking ban had had a 'dire effect' on the club.

“Across the board, our revenue is down by 15 per cent and the main reason is due to people not being able to smoke inside anymore,” Mr Buckley said.

“As well as that, the downturn in the economy, high fuel prices and interest rates are all taking their toll.”

Mr Buckley said clubs had been hit with a double whammy, thanks to the smoking ban and ongoing increases in poker machine taxes over the past four years. The Woolgoolga RSL has also undertaken renovations to build three outdoor areas to cater for smoking clientele, which adds to the revenue pinch.

The Coffs Harbour Catholic Club has adapted to the ban, providing 28 poker machines as part of an outdoor smoking area in an attempt to offset the losses.

But chief executive officer Michael Hawkins said the club was still down 18 per cent from the year before, with a loss of $400,000 in pokie revenue he attributed to the smoking ban.

“Our other business income is up so the pokie loss has to be, to some extent, a result of the banning of smoking,” Mr Hawkins said.

“It's been a pretty sorry 12 months but everyone's in the same boat - we will battle on.”

ClubsNSW, an industry body representing 1400 registered clubs across the state, said overall club income for the 2007/08 financial year had fallen by 11 per cent compared with the year before.

This equates to a $385 million reduction in income, but the impact is even greater than that figure, with clubs spending a collective total of $422 million on building new outdoor smoking areas.

A total of 25 clubs across NSW either closed or amalgamated during the year, and 270 registered clubs have now closed in the past decade. The indoor smoking ban came into effect on July 2 last year.

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