MGM Cotai (pictured) has finally been added to the list of major Macau casino venues approved for new-style smoking lounges, according to a press release issued by the Health Bureau on Thursday. The decision took effect on April 30 but has only just been publicised.
The ability of local gaming operators to offer casino players on-site smoking facilities via lounges close to casino floors – albeit that tableside smoking is now banned in the Macau market – has been identified by a number of investment analysts as a likely positive for gross gaming revenue. Being able to offer smoking lounges is seen as a way of reducing the risk of players leaving the premises to smoke and not coming back.
The addition of MGM Cotai to the list of venues allowed higher-specification smoking lounges with improved air-filtering equipment, means all major casino properties run by Macau’s six casino operators now have such approvals. Many of MGM Cotai’s market competitors had been given the nod for such facilities since the end of March or earlier.
According to the Health Bureau’s Thursday statement, as of April 30, it had given permission for an aggregate of 546 new-style smoking lounges – as required under recently-updated legislation – for a total of 31 casinos in the city.
Up to December 31, VIP rooms had been the only places in Macau casinos that had still been allowing smoking at the gaming table. New rules on smoking in public places in Macau came into effect on January 1, 2018, although a one-year grace period for the casino industry permitted VIP room smoking at table side to continue for a further 12 month. Several investment analysts had mentioned before that the full application – with effect from January 1 – of new smoking rules were likely a headwind for the gaming business.
There are 47 active gaming venues in the city, according to data from the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau. Many of the venues have either multiple gaming floors or multiple gaming areas, including VIP zones often physically separate from the main gaming facilities.
The Health Bureau’s Thursday statement did not detail the gaming venues that simply chosen not ask permission for new-style smoking lounges.
But the statement noted that Casino L’Arc Macau – a satellite gaming venue run under the gaming licence of SJM Holdings Ltd – had been a “blackspot” for smoking rule violations in April. The document added that bureau staff had on 660 occasions in the first fourth months of this year conducted joint patrols of Macau gaming floors with officials from the city’s casino regulator. Such patrols had resulted in 596 instances of alleged smoking rule violations being identified and acted upon.
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”I would expect that there might be some clearly-defined criteria … and I’m supportive of a more clearly-defined roadmap for the [gaming] industry”
Co-chairperson and executive director of Macau casino operator MGM China