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Flashback: Social clubs lose poker tables in B.C. in 1996

15 years ago (Feb. 6-12, 1996)

Poker tables exit clubs, enter casinos

British Columbia's long tradition of allowing poker tables at non-profit social clubs will come to an end later this month under a new government policy that shifts control of charitable gambling in the province to private casino companies.

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Last week, the province began allowing charity-driven casino companies to open as many as three poker tables per establishment and announced that all casino licences held by social clubs will be cancelled effective Feb. 29.

Gaming revenues are the main source of income for decades-old societies such as the Lumbermen's Social Club in Burnaby and the Athens Social Club in East Vancouver.

Social clubs are required to give 12 per cent of their poker profits to the provincial government. Casinos set aside half their profits for charity, with 40 per cent going to the casino operator and the province taking the remaining 10 per cent.

B.C. Gaming Commission chair Richard Macintosh said the changes were needed because poker tables have turned some membership-run societies into thriving businesses, despite federal laws that prohibit for-profit gambling.

Flash forward: In 2009-2010, lotteries and casinos in B.C. generated nearly $2-billion. The province took half and returned about $150-million to non-profit groups.

25 years ago (Feb. 6-12, 1986)

Council backs smoking ban in public buildings

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Vancouver city councillors voiced strong support this week for a proposed bylaw amendment that would ban smoking in most non-residential buildings in the city.

Recommended by Vancouver's health department, the amendment would outlaw smoking in a long list of public places, including government buildings, schools, hospitals, retail stores, theatres, libraries and indoor sports venues. Proposed fines range from $50 to $2,000.

Citing recent studies confirming the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, a staff report to council stated "no individual has the right to pollute the air of others with substances known to be hazardous to health."

While regulating smoking in the workplace will be more difficult, the change "offers employees basic minimum rights to clean indoor air," the report said.

The new bylaw would allow restaurants to designate up to half their seating area for smokers. Bars, lounges, hotels and other service establishments would be allowed to designate special smoking areas.

The report noted that 74 per cent of Vancouver residents are non-smokers and 90 per cent of people support restrictions on smoking in public places.

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Flash forward: In April, 2010, the Vancouver Parks Board voted to ban smoking at all city parks and beaches.

Brennan Clarke, Special to the Globe and Mail

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