The Macau government had – as of February 5 – approved only 86 requests for smoking lounges in casinos, or 55.5 percent of the total number of applications (155) received since 2014, the Health Bureau said in a press release issued on Friday.
The bureau added that so far only 27 of Macau’s 36 registered casinos have been allowed at least one smoking lounge. All 36 had asked for such lounges according to the document, although two registered venues are not currently operating.
The bureau’s statement neither said why there was such a modest approval rate for smoking lounge requests, nor stated how many requests were still being reviewed.
Since October 2014, smoking on casino main floors in Macau is only allowed in airport-style enclosed smoking lounges that do not contain any gaming tables or slot machines. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.
Macau legislators approved in July last year the first reading of a government bill that proposes the abolition of casino smoking lounges and a full smoking ban in VIP areas. The bill is now at committee stage in the Legislative Assembly.
A study from consulting firm KPMG said a full smoking ban inside Macau’s casinos could lead to a 16-percent decline in the gross domestic product of the city. The study was commissioned by Macau’s six gaming operators.
Last month, a total of 46 people were fined for smoking in smoke-free areas of casinos, according to the Health Bureau release. The majority – 41 people – were tourists.
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Vitaly Umansky, Louis Li and Shirley Yang
Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein