Only 11 of Macau’s 47 gaming venues in operation – including casinos and slot parlours – had submitted as of June 30 applications to have smoking lounges approved under the new, enhanced set of technical standards, said the city’s Health Bureau in a press release issued on Wednesday.
The document did not specify which gaming venues had applied for the new smoking lounges. It only stated that, in total, the 11 gaming venues had filed an aggregate of 68 requests for approval of smoking lounges.
So far, only one new smoking lounge has been approved by the city’s authorities, stated the Health Bureau. That was for Macau casino hotel Ponte 16, a joint venture between casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd and Success Universe Group Ltd.
Macau’s gaming operators have to submit by September 28 any applications for new smoking lounges, in order for such requests to have a chance of being approved before the city’s new regime on smoking is enforced in casinos on January 1, 2019. The Health Bureau justified the September 28 deadline on the basis of how long it would take to inspect and approve the smoking lounges with enhanced technical standards.
The Macau government banned in October 2014 smoking on casino mass floors. An exception was made for tobacco use in enclosed smoking lounges – facilities without gaming machines or tables – located on some casino mass-market floors in the city.
Macau’s Legislative Assembly approved on July 14 last year a revised bill on smoking that bans tableside tobacco use in VIP rooms. Although the new rules apply from January 1, 2018, tableside smoking at VIP rooms will in effect be able to continue until January 1, 2019, as casinos have been given a year’s grace period to set up VIP smoking lounges.
Existing casino smoking lounges – set up on mass floors since the ban on free-for-all casino smoking – will have to be upgraded in order to meet the new standards, noted the bureau. If any existing lounges were found to be in operation – without the necessary technical upgrades and fresh authorisations – after January 1, 2019, operators could be fined up to MOP200,000 (US$24,747), it added.
On Wednesday, the Health Bureau said additionally that the aggregate number of charges filed for instances of smoking in unauthorised areas inside the city’s casinos reached 781 in the first six months of 2018. That is an increase of 131.1 percent from the prior-year period, show the official data.
Statistics from the bureau show that a total of 436 site inspections were conducted inside casinos in the six months to June 30 – up from 312 inspections in the prior-year period.
Smokers that use a tobacco product in no-smoking areas are subject to a fine of MOP1,500.
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Summit Ascent, lead developer of Tigre de Cristal