The Macau government says it will “strictly enforce” the upcoming smoking ban for casino mass gaming floors.
The city’s Health Bureau, the body in charge of enforcing the ban, said in a statement on Thursday that it would “rigorously” inspect the smoking lounges and smoking areas that gaming operators are allowed to set up under the new rules, to ensure they comply with all relevant regulations.
All mass-market gaming floors in Macau must go smoke-free starting from October 6, following that month’s Golden Week holiday, which includes the National Day celebrations of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.
However, casino operators will be allowed to build smoking lounges on their mass-market floors, but they must not have any gaming tables or slot machines inside them. In theory they would be similar to smoking rooms found at major airports.
According to the new rules, casino operators can however ask to set up smoking areas with gaming tables and slot machines on non-main floor zones “that are of limited access to specific games and gamblers”. This is understood to cover not only VIP rooms but also premium mass gambling areas when they are isolated from main floors.
The Health Bureau’s Thursday note comes after representatives from three casino labour activist groups expressed worries about what they think are likely working conditions once the smoking ban on casino mass floors goes into effect next month.
In a press conference hosted on Thursday, the three groups – affiliated with the influential Macau Federation of Trade Unions – warned about casino operators converting part of their mass-market floor areas, namely high-limit gaming areas, into ‘limited access areas’ to allow smoking and gambling inside. They also mentioned some operators reportedly had plans to simplify application proceedings for players to enrol in members-only gaming clubs, giving punters an easier access to smoking areas with gaming.
The three groups, which included the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff Association, the Macau Gaming Industry Workers Association and the SJM Employees Union, called for a full smoking ban inside casinos.
Casino workers have previously also expressed concerns about ventilation standards inside the new smoking areas. Some fear operators will allocate a disproportionate number of labour-intensive live gaming tables to those areas, and use more electronic gaming machines on the casino main floor. Some of the latter type of machine allow a single dealer to serve many more players than traditional table games.
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”The Macau government is not aiming to trivialise or drive out the junket sector, but to regulate the sector so that it would not hurt Macau’s reputation”
Alvin Chau Cheok Wa
Chief executive of privately-held VIP junket business Suncity Group