About two-thirds, or 66 percent, of 34,000 Macau casino workers said to have responded to a survey commissioned by the city’s gaming operators “support the retention and development of smoking lounges within the casinos”, it was announced on Tuesday.
A total of 81 percent of the respondents to the poll are said to be gaming staff and the remaining 19 percent non-gaming employees. The respondents included non-smokers as well as smokers, the casino operators additionally said in a joint statement on Tuesday. International professional services firm KPMG conducted the research, GGRAsia has learned. The researchers also surveyed the attitudes of casino customers.
The Macau government confirmed last month that it plans to push ahead with a complete smoking ban in the city’s gaming venues, which might include removing smoking lounges from casinos mass floors.
Casino operators have been speaking out against the full ban, due to concerns that it could lead to sharper declines in casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) than have already been seen. Casino GGR in Macau has fallen for 12 consecutive months when judged year-on-year, and contracted by 37.1 percent year-on-year in the five months to May 31.
“While the operators support the Macau SAR government’s Smoking Control Act as the health and well-being of employees and customers are of paramount importance, they are united in their stand that smoking lounges for patrons should be maintained and that careful consideration must be given to all the ramifications that an enactment of the proposed law would have,” the operators said in Tuesday’s statement.
In May, representatives of the Macau Junket Operators Association petitioned the government to allow smoking lounges inside VIP rooms if a full tobacco ban in casinos is approved.
According to rule changes enacted in October last year, smoking on casino main floors in Macau is currently only allowed in airport-style enclosed smoking lounges that do not contain any gaming tables or slot machines. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.
Karen Tang, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, said in a note in January that a smoking ban in Macau’s high roller areas could see VIP GGR fall by 15 percent.
“Since the gaming floor smoking-ban came into effect on 6 October 2014, informal feedback on the smoking lounges from employees and customers alike has been largely positive,” the operators said.
According to the survey, 47 percent of VIP customers and 31 percent of mass customers “are concerned that a full smoking ban will have a detrimental impact on employment and Macau’s economy more generally”.
The research also suggests that VIPs would reduce their visits to Macau by 17 percent and their length of stay by 24 percent with a full smoking ban in place. About 32 percent of the respondents said they would travel to alternative gaming destinations due to the fact that these places allow smoking inside casinos, according to the survey findings.
In the statement on the results of the poll, casino operators said that all sides should recognise “that there is strong support to retain well-constructed smoking lounges, and that a full smoking ban could have a negative impact on Macau’s wider economy”.
“Macau is facing strong headwinds and introducing additional restrictions that could further harm its economy should be carefully evaluated, particularly if alternative solutions are available, including offering customer choice through independently-ventilated smoking lounges,” they added.
Members of casino worker lobby group Forefront of Macao Gaming admitted earlier this week that there are different views among employees regarding smoking lounges. Lei Kuok Keong, vice president of Forefront of Macao Gaming, told Portuguese-language newspaper Jornal Tribuna de Macau that the association would carry out its own survey among casino workers.
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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