A full smoking ban in all mass market casino floors in Macau will be implemented from October 6, the government announced this evening. Until then, smoking will continue to be banned in at least half of the space in casino floors and slot-machine parlours.
The partial smoking ban in gaming areas was implemented in January 2013, but since then some casinos – most under the licence of SJM Holdings Ltd – have failed two rounds of air quality tests. The government had threatened to cut the size of smoking areas in those venues.
In a joint letter sent to the government last December, casino operators had suggested the creation of smoking rooms.
The Legislative Assembly in March said it was willing to debate amendments to the tobacco control law, calling for a full smoking ban in casinos.
Under the government’s proposal, all operators will be allowed to build smoking rooms on their mass market floors without gaming tables. In theory they would be similar to smoking rooms found at major airports. The government statement does not mention whether slot machines will also be banned inside smoking rooms.
All casino floors must go smoke-free by October 6, the end of that month’s Golden Week. The government says it will fast track the legislative procedure and the approval process to ensure enough time for the construction of the smoking rooms.
In today’s statement, the Health Bureau refers to common areas in casinos. It is not clear if the measure would also impact VIP gaming areas. Analysts believe the measure will be restricted to mass market areas.
“We believe that the government will still allow smoking to be conducted in so-called private gaming areas, which would include nearly all existing VIP rooms, as well as much of the existing premium mass spaces,” Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd said in a note today.
The research house says the full smoking ban in mass floors comes sooner than expected, but it remains confident “that there will not be a measurably negative impact on gross gaming revenue” if VIP and premium are insulated from this ban.
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“All of the [casino] concessionaires in Macau respect the law in China, and we never promote gaming in China”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China