The Macau government remains committed to its proposal for a full smoking ban inside casinos, the office of the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng, said in a statement.
The clarification came after Steve Wynn, chairman of local casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd, hinted in a conference call with investment analysts that Mr Tam had made a U-turn on the proposal.
“The government’s stance on this matter is clear, as stated in the bill that has passed first reading by the Legislative Assembly [of Macau],” the office was quoted as saying in a report in local newspaper Jornal Tribuna de Macau, published on Friday.
Mr Tam, who oversees smoking control policies, has said several times that to allow the retention of smoking lounges inside casinos would not allow for a proper control of secondhand smoke.
“I was glad to see that they [the Macau government] allowed the smoking rooms,” Mr Wynn had said in response to an analyst’s question on the smoking lounges issue during the conference call on Wednesday to discuss the second quarter results of the Wynn group.
Mr Wynn added: “There was no reason not to, and Secretary Tam, who is very concerned about public health, finally felt as if it was okay to allow the smoking rooms to continue, and that’s a good thing.”
The amended tobacco control bill currently at committee stage in the Legislative Assembly refers to the abolition of smoking lounges and a full smoking ban in VIP areas. Legislators approved the first reading of the bill on July 10.
Casino gross gaming revenue in Macau has fallen for 13 consecutive months when judged year-on-year, and contracted by 37 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2015. Investment analysts have said removing mass floor smoking lounges could shave 10 percent from mass market gaming revenue, and a VIP room smoking ban as much as 15 percent from VIP revenue.
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.
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