The chief executive of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd says that were any of the company’s properties not to gain approval for new-style smoking lounges by the time of a city-wide ban on tableside smoking in casinos, due on January 1, it “will have some impact” on the firm, though he didn’t quantify it or characterise its likely nature.
“If it is not in time, it is not in time,” said Ambrose So Shu Fai (pictured in a file photo), referring to his firm’s paperwork concerning the matter. “We try at least to make some of those [new lounges] pass the inspection,” he added.
Asked by a reporter about the possible effect on SJM Holdings’ business if approvals for new lounges came later than January 1, Mr So remarked: “I think it will have some impact… but eventually that will be approved. It is a matter of time”.
But the CEO insisted relevant documents were in the hands of the Macau authorities. He didn’t clarify when such documents were sent.
On December 15 Macau’s Health Bureau had said that – as of that date – 18 gaming venues had not presented requests for new smoking lounges. It stated the list included: SJM Holdings’ directly-managed Casino Grand Lisboa, Casino Lisboa and Casino Oceanus, and the SJM Holdings-licensed Eastern Casino, Grandview Casino, Casino Golden Dragon, Macau Jockey Club Casino – based at the Macau Roosevelt Hotel – and the Royal Dragon Casino. The latter are run by third parties using SJM Holdings’ gaming rights.
Mr So’s Thursday comments – made on the sidelines of a Macau government reception to mark the 19th anniversary of Macau’s handover from Portuguese administration to that of China – did not clarify whether the SJM Holdings satellite properties mentioned by the health department as not having made applications were also seeking new smoking lounges. Mr So did mention that “there is about 100 smoking rooms being installed and there are procedures for us to make applications.” He didn’t make clear whether that was only for his firm’s directly-managed venues.
He did say, in terms of papers already presented: “We have submitted many of those. They [the authorities] have to check … each and every stage.”
Mocha Clubs, an operator of slot halls in Macau, and which is run by Macau casino licensee Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, has reportedly decided not to apply for smoking lounges.
The Health Bureau had first identified in the December 6 statement the names of the properties that had not submitted the relevant paperwork for new-style lounges – facilities said to have higher technical standards for air extraction than the old smoking lounges in the market – by the September 28 deadline. The department had added that – as a consequence – it would not be able to guarantee approval for late applications by the time of the new regime in the calendar New Year. Exactly the same names cropped up in the health department’s December 15 statement on the matter.
Macau’s Legislative Assembly passed on July 14, 2017 a revised bill on smoking that bans tableside tobacco use in VIP rooms – the only places in the Macau casino context that were still allowing smoking at the gaming table. Although the new rules came into force on January 1, 2018, tableside smoking at VIP rooms will in effect be permitted until January 1, 2019, as casinos have been given a year’s grace period to set up smoking lounges for VIP players.
Under the revised law, all smoking lounges in casinos – including the existing ones set up on mass floors since the ban on free-for-all casino smoking – will also have to conform to enhanced technical standards.
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