Macau legislator Si Ka Lon has urged the government to analyse and provide data on the impact that a full smoking ban could have on the city’s casino gross gaming revenue (GGR).
In a written request to the government, Mr Si said casino operators are speaking out against the full ban, fearing that it could lead to sharper declines in casino revenue. That concern was also growing among Macau residents, Mr Si stated. His comments were reported by local Portuguese-language newspaper Jornal Tribuna de Macau, quoting from the written inquiry submitted to the government.
Casino GGR in Macau has fallen for 12 consecutive months when judged year-on-year. Accumulated GGR for the first five months of 2015 stands 37.1 percent lower than in the same period in 2014. Several members of Macau’s Legislative Assembly had already expressed concern over the potential economic impact of a full smoking ban in the city’s casinos.
The Macau government confirmed last month that it plans to push ahead with a complete smoking ban in the city’s casinos, despite the opposition of casino operators.
Mr Si said the government should take into consideration that non-gaming activities in the city’s casinos are at an early stage of development. This meant that gaming would still be the major industry in Macau in the near-term.
Mr Si – who sits in Macau’s Legislative Assembly on the same electoral ticket as prominent Macau businessman Chan Meng Kam – also said that removing smoking lounges from casinos’ mass floors was not mentioned in the first draft of the tobacco control act. He additionally called on the government to provide data that justifies the need to implement such a measure.
According to rule changes enacted in October last year, smoking on casino main floors in Macau is currently only allowed in airport-style enclosed smoking lounges that do not contain any gaming tables or slot machines.
Puffing a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms, but that is set to change with the new rules. The government has indicated that existing smoking lounges might also be banned from mass floors.
The vice chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, Francis Lui Yiu Tung, last month warned that preventing some patrons from smoking meant “there will be huge losses” for Macau’s casino industry. He added that that the six local operators were “working together” to propose alternatives to a complete ban, although he didn’t specify what they were.
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"If the [Macau casino] concessions are put up for bid, there will also be a lot of giant Chinese companies, some having nothing to do with gaming, which would like to take over these enormously successful casinos”
Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau