Macau’s largest labour group is launching a campaign to press the government to implement a full smoking ban in the casino industry.
The influential Macau Federation of Trade Unions will start collecting signatures to petition the government to ban smoking from VIP rooms and end smoking lounges on mass casino floors. The group is aiming to collect at least 10,000 signatures, a representative said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Under rule changes enacted on October 6 by the Macau government, smoking on casino main floors is now only allowed in enclosed smoking lounges that do not contain any gaming tables or slot machines. But puffing a cigarette while gambling is currently still allowed in VIP rooms.
The Federation of Trade Unions, considered to be close to the Macau government, has been a strong advocate of a full smoking ban in the city’s casinos. The grouping of local workers – with an estimated membership of 70,000 – argues that the current smoking rules fail to protect the health of casino employees.
The number of people in Macau working for the gaming industry reached an all-time high during the fourth quarter of last year, show official data released on Tuesday. There were 87,000 people employed by the sector during the October-December 2014 period.
In December, the Federation of Trade Unions published the results of a survey that concluded that three in four casino workers (78 percent) in Macau didn’t want to work in smoking areas, even if casino operators provided them extra incentives.
The Macau government has already hinted it could announce in March new tightening to the partial smoking ban in casinos.
Many investment analysts covering the gaming sector have recently highlighted the potential risk of a smoking ban in VIP rooms, noting it could further reduce Macau’s appeal to high rollers, especially those coming from mainland China.
The poor results of the VIP segment have been one of the major factors impacting Macau’s gaming industry performance. Total gross gaming revenue has dropped for seven consecutive months measured on year-on-year terms.
VIP gaming revenue in Macau fell by 29.0 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter and 10.9 percent for the full-year of 2014, according to official data published earlier this month. VIP casino revenue accounted for 61 percent of all casino revenue during the fourth quarter of last year.
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China