Representatives from Macau’s major gaming labour groups have given mixed reviews to the results of a survey on the vexed topic of smoking in casinos, that was commissioned from the University of Macau by the city’s six casino operators. The poll indicated more than half of respondents supported the retention of smoking lounges on casino main floors.
But Cloee Chao, director of local gaming labour activist group New Macau Gaming Professionals Association, told GGRAsia that her group was not convinced by that survey finding. She said that approximately one year ago – when the trading conditions for the city’s casinos in gross gaming revenue terms were more challenging than at present – a survey by the association of its own members indicated that most of them supported a full smoking ban – i.e., zero smoking inside casinos.
“As of today, we still think that a full smoking ban should be in place,” Ms Chao told us.
“We are going to conduct a survey again with regard to the gaming workers’ opinions on the retention of smoking lounges, and hopefully we can deliver the results to the Legislative Assembly next week,” she added. The gaming activist noted that the survey aimed to include the participation of at least 1,000 members of her association.
The issue of whether to retain the existing smoking lounges on casino main floors has been central to discussion of a bill proposed by the government for a full smoking ban inside casinos.
But in a Monday statement, the city’s Health Bureau said it would give a “cautious consideration” to the survey and the six casino operators’ suggestion to upgrade the specifications for the smoking lounges on gaming floors. In the same statement, the bureau has noted that the upgrade in specifications as suggested by the casino operators for smoking lounges present a “workable solution”.
This latest stance as expressed by the Health Bureau was “unacceptable,” legislator Ella Lei Cheng I told local media on the sidelines of a Tuesday event. Ms Lei represents the traditionalist labour group the Federation of Trade Unions in the Legislative Assembly, alongside veteran union members and legislators Kwan Tsui Hang and Lam Heong Sang.
The latest statement as issued by the Health Bureau “conflicted” with its earlier conclusion that smoking lounges cannot entirely control the spread of tobacco smoke to no-smoking areas, Ms Lei suggested. The legislator, a vocal supporter for a full ban on smoking, told the media that she would urge the Macau government to listen to the opinions of legislators and casino employees regarding smoking control policy.
Choi Kam Fu, the director general of the Macau Gaming Enterprise Staff’s Association, expressed a slightly different opinion from Ms Lei. His group, an affiliate to the Federation of Trade Unions, currently consists of over 6,000 casino employee members, with most employed on table games operations.
“We welcome the adoption of smoking lounges – if the so-called high standards for these installations can really help create a smoke-free work environment, and such standards are recognised by international [health] authorities,” Mr Choi remarked to us, “Employees need to be shown how these specifications work, and whether they can really block off harmful tobacco [smoke].”
Stephen Lao Ka Weng, president of local casino worker group Power of the Macao Gaming Association, told GGRAsia that it maintained openness to the idea of keeping smoking lounges on the main floors of the city’s casinos, provided that the tough technical standards for such facilities can effectively keep smoke away from casino workers, and that such facilities are continuously monitored.
“It’s true that the casino gross gaming revenue here has shown some recovery…but the worker members’ concerns are that a full smoking ban [inside casinos] can impact the casinos’ earnings, and in turn affect their employment,” Mr Lao said. His group currently has about 1,800 members, mostly working as dealers and pit managers.
Angela Leong On Kei, a legislator and executive director of casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, remarked to media on Tuesday that the concept of “full smoking ban” to be enforced in casinos and the setting of smoking lounges are compatible ideas.
“I think smoking lounges and a full smoking ban are compatible [ideas] – it is a scenario that when you walk into a casino, no one smoke on the floors, and especially at the gaming tables,” Ms Leong remarked on the sidelines of a Tuesday event.
“Most importantly, our workers will not suffer from any harm of second-hand smoke…and it’s also important that the smoking lounges are all up to standard,” she added, stressing that she did not agree with opinions suggesting the latest stance by the Health Bureau was effectively a climbdown in the face of pressure from casino operators that wish to retain smoking lounges on casino floors.
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Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue in September