The Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff Association, affiliated with the influential Macau Federation of Trade Unions, has asked the government to have full-time inspectors inside casinos to enforce the full smoking ban on mass floors that was introduced on October 6.
Local media this week quoted Leong Sun Iok, deputy director of the association, claiming that some gamblers ignore the no smoking signs and verbal warnings from casino staff if government inspectors are not present.
Investment bank Credit Suisse AG said in a note on Friday that some so-called premium mass table gambling zones were being converted by “certain casinos” into members-only areas.
“During our visit, we observed that some of the premium mass areas of certain casinos are converted into ‘member only area[s]‘ and allow smokers to get around the new smoking ban rule,” said the note from investment analysts Kenneth Fong and Isis Wong.
The note added: “We understand that several other operators are in the process of applying with the regulators for the conversion. If smoking is gradually allowed in more premium mass area, this would be positive for the sector and drive a sequential improvement in mass business,” added the analysts.
Since October 6, smoking on casino main floors is only allowed in enclosed airport-style smoking rooms that do not contain any gaming tables or slot machines.
In the run up to the new smoking regime, guidance from government officials was that casino operators would be able 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 was understood by casino managements to cover not only VIP rooms but also premium mass gambling areas when they were isolated from the rest of the mass-market floor.
However less than a week before the rule changes were implemented, a press statement from the city’s Health Bureau said smoking would not be allowed in premium mass areas of any kind.
Local labour groups last month voiced fears that despite this statement, casino operators would be permitted to convert some premium mass areas to members-only zones in order to allow patrons to smoke.
But the Health Bureau on Friday said that while it is responsible for enforcement of rules on public smoking, the policy on smoking areas in casinos is generated by the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
Nonetheless Mr Leong of the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff Association said this week that the Health Bureau should have a more active role in enforcing the smoking ban inside casinos.
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Lionel Leong Vai Tac
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance