Two of Macau’s main casino properties – namely Grand Lisboa, run by SJM Holdings Ltd, and MGM Cotai, run by MGM China Holdings Ltd – were still waiting to have their new casino smoking lounges approved by the local authorities as of Tuesday (January 8).
The city’s Health Bureau said that – as of that day – it had given permission for an aggregate of 378 new-style smoking lounges, meaning no new venues had been approved since December 31. Also as of Tuesday, the bureau had received a total of 505 requests for installing new smoking lounges in casinos, it added in a release issued on Thursday.
A detailed list from the Health Bureau – categorised per casino property – of all the smoking lounges approved as of December 31, showed that no such lounges had been approved for either Grand Lisboa or MGM Cotai. Other properties run by SJM Holdings – including Casino Lisboa and Casino Oceanus – were also absent from the list.
Up to December 31, VIP rooms were the only places in Macau casinos that had still been allowing smoking at the gaming table. Tableside smoking ended when new rules on smoking in casinos in Macau came into effect on January 1. A December report on the casino sector outlook for Macau from brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said the new smoking rules were “likely a headwind for the industry”.
Official information contained in Thursday’s Health Bureau announcement said an aggregate of 13 gaming venues had – as of that date – made no request for new-style smoking lounges.
According to prior press releases by the bureau, the 13 were: the Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd-licensed Casino Presidente; the SJM Holdings-licensed venues Eastern Casino, Grandview Casino, Macau Jockey Club Casino (based at the Macau Roosevelt Hotel), Casino Grand Dragon (rebranded from Casino Taipa Square), the Royal Dragon Casino; and seven Mocha Clubs slots venues controlled by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd.
All Macau gaming venues wanting to continue to offer on-site smoking to patrons after January 1, must apply to the local authorities to operate the new, higher-standard lounges, said to have better air extraction equipment than was mandated under the previous regulatory regime.
The Health Bureau had stated last year it could not guarantee that any requests for permission for smoking lounges made after a September 28 deadline could be approved before the start of 2019. According to information previously disclosed by the bureau, the initial smoking lounge applications for Grand Lisboa, Casino Lisboa and Casino Oceanus were only filed in the second half of December. However, the initial request for MGM Cotai was done before the September 28 deadline.
The bureau said in its latest release the approval process for each request for permission for smoking lounges could take a minimum of 90 days.
In its Thursday announcement, the body outlined that some requests for licensing of smoking lounges in casinos had only been submitted in December or even early this month. Such requests were “still being reviewed,” it said.
The bureau added that some pending applications had not yet been approved due to problems either with the documentation submitted, or for the lounges being unable to fulfil all the required technical standards. In addition, some requests had been cancelled at the request of the respective applicants.
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Daisy Ho Chiu Fung
Chairman of casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd