The Macau government announced it detected an unauthorised smoking area inside City of Dreams casino resort, a property owned and operated by Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. The firm had earlier said its operations were compliant with Macau legal requirements.
The Health Bureau said in a statement issued on Wednesday night that the unauthorised smoking area was detected following complaints on the matter.
“On Wednesday (October 29), the Health Bureau and the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau conducted a joint investigation at City of Dreams casino and confirmed that the casino had transformed a non-smoking area into a smoking area without receiving authorisation from the Health Bureau,” the statement said.
“The Health Bureau and the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau collected evidence and issued an official notification. A report will be sent to the government legal services for advice on the matter,” the Health Bureau added.
The statement did not mention which penalties City of Dreams could face. Existing regulation states that casinos that do not comply with the rules on smoking areas may have these areas reduced or cancelled.
Media reports say the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau had earlier this month approved the conversion of the area in question into a “limited access area”. However, the Health Bureau reportedly had not authorised it to become a smoking area.
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.
Just shortly before the Health Bureau issued its statement on Wednesday, Melco Crown had denied any wrongdoing.
“All gaming areas that Melco Crown operates as smoking areas in the context of the tobacco control laws and regulations have been approved for smoking since 2012 by a dispatch of the Macau SAR Chief Executive,” the company said in a press release.
“None of Melco Crown’s gaming operations where smoking is allowed are located in the common gaming areas of casinos; instead, all Melco Crown gaming operations which allow smoking comply with every operational and technical requirements to qualify as restricted access gaming areas, as defined by the most recent regulations,” the press release stated.
Earlier this week, the influential Macau Federation of Trade Unions said in a press conference it had received several reports from casino workers at City of Dreams and Altira that Melco Crown was allowing smoking in its premium mass gaming areas.
(Updated at 10.20am)
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China