The Macau government expects to receive about 600 applications from casinos to have smoking lounges approved under a new set of technical standards, said the head of the city’s Health Bureau, Lei Chin Ion.
Mr Lei added that just 16 of Macau’s 39 casinos in operation had so far submitted applications to have smoking lounges approved in line with the new rules.
The 16 gaming venues that had filed paperwork on the matter had made an aggregate of 233 requests for approval of smoking lounges, Mr Lei told reporters over the weekend.
Among the 233 requests, 10 smoking lounges in two gaming venues have been approved by the city’s authorities.
The first smoking lounge application approval was announced in April. It was submitted by casino hotel Ponte 16, a joint venture between casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd and Success Universe Group Ltd.
Studio City, operated by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, was the second of two Macau casino resorts to have been granted approval for new-style smoking lounges in the local market, the Health Bureau said in August.
All Macau gaming venues wanting to continue to offer on-site smoking to patrons must apply to the local authorities to operate the new, higher-standard lounges, said to have better air extraction equipment than is mandated under the current regulatory regime. From January 1, 2019, only authorised, enhanced, lounges will be permitted in the local market.
Macau’s gaming operators have to submit by September 28 any applications for new smoking lounges, in order for such requests to have a chance of being approved before the city’s new regime on smoking is enforced in casinos on January 1, Mr Lei said.
He justified the September 28 deadline on the basis of how long it would take to inspect and approve the smoking lounges with enhanced technical standards, as such approval involved a total of three government departments: the Health Bureau, the Fire Services Bureau and the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau.
Mr Lei added that the Health Bureau could not ensure applications for new smoking lounges filed after the September 28 deadline would be approved by January 1, 2019.
Macau’s Legislative Assembly passed on July 14, 2017 a revised bill on smoking that bans tableside tobacco use in VIP rooms – the only places in the Macau that were still allowing smoking at the gaming table. Although the new rules came into force on January 1, 2018, tableside smoking at VIP rooms will in effect be permitted until January 1, 2019, as casinos have been given a year’s grace period to set up smoking lounges for VIP players.
Under the revised law, all smoking lounges in casinos – including the existing ones set up on mass floors since the ban on free-for-all casino smoking – will also have to conform to enhanced technical standards.
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”Ramp ups [of new Macau casinos] are taking a little bit longer. The market is somewhat volatile at the moment, but we continue to look at all the opportunities and are still very comfortable that things are starting to move ahead”
Chief executive of MGM China Holdings