Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam Chon Weng (pictured), says the city’s government is determined to push forward a full smoking ban inside casinos despite opposition from the industry.
Gaming operators and other industry participants should put the health and interests of workers first, Mr Tam told reporters on Friday, when questioned about the potential negative impact of the measure on casino revenue.
Quoted in a government press release, he added that to sanction the retention of smoking lounges inside casinos – as advocated by casino operators – would not allow for a proper control of second-hand smoke.
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. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.
But a new tobacco control bill including provisions to outlaw smoking lounges on casino mass floors as well as smoking in VIP rooms was announced by the government last week, and could come into force early next year. (The Chinese version of the bill is available here; the Portuguese version is available here. There is no official translation into English of the bill.)
The territory’s Legislative Assembly is yet to schedule a debate on the government’s proposed bill.
Mr Tam on Friday stated that prohibiting smoking in places open to the public is an international trend. The official pointed out that some cities in Mainland China, such as Beijing and Shenzhen, have recently moved against smoking lounges inside airports.
Investment analysts have said removing mass floor smoking lounges could shave 10 percent from mass market gaming revenue, and as much as 15 percent from VIP revenue if players at tables and gaming machines are forced to go outside casino premises for a cigarette.
Macau’s six casino operators have repeatedly asked to be allowed to keep smoking lounges in their venues if a full tobacco ban is approved. A survey commissioned by the six firms suggested that about two-thirds, or 66 percent, of 34,000 Macau casino workers that responded to the poll “support the retention and development of smoking lounges within the casinos”.
Casino operators have also called for an “in-depth study” to evaluate what economic effects such a ban and other proposed tobacco control measures would have. A trade association of Macau VIP gambling room operators last week warned that its members might be forced to cut salaries or even lay off staff because of the expected impact of a full smoking ban in the city’s casinos.
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