Macau’s Health Bureau is still in discussion with the city’s six casino operators regarding how to ensure smoking lounges on casino floors have enhanced technical standards, the bureau’s deputy director Cheang Seng Ip told local media on Sunday. The enhanced standards seek to ensure smoke from such facilities is pumped away from nearby non-smokers in a more efficient manner.
“We still have to communicate the details [with casino operators]. But we have basically reached consensus on the major directions,” Mr Cheang told the media on the sidelines of a public event.
Ambrose So Shu Fai, chief executive of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, said in a briefing last month that the six casino operators would like to see existing smoking lounges retained inside casinos, in parallel with enhanced measures to prevent the leakage of smoke from them.
Airport-style enclosed smoking lounges were introduced on selected mass gaming floors in the city following an October 2014 ban on free-for-all smoking in designated parts of the main floor. Tableside smoking in VIP rooms was unaffected and remains a possibility. The government has proposed – as part of the package of measures for a new regime on casino smoking – banning tableside smoking smoking in VIP areas and instead having VIP smoking lounges. But the government has not clarified whether it will approve smoking in new-to-market VIP rooms in yet-to-be opened properties.
During a February briefing on behalf of the Macau operators, SJM Holdings’ Mr So noted the six firms had proposed to the government a set of “advanced specifications” for smoking lounges, including a so-called “negative pressure” mechanism for such lounges to be set at -1 pascal. The proposal had been delivered to the government in December, but was only revealed to the public in the briefing.
The Health Bureau’s Mr Cheang noted on Sunday: “They [the casino operators] said they could achieve it [negative pressure] at -1 pascal… we suggested to raise the level to -5 pascal… They all agreed to our suggestion.”
Mr Cheang added the bureau is still analysing the feedback of the casino operators.
The government had previously proposed that an updated regime on tobacco control for Macau should ban entirely smoking in the city’s casinos. But in a briefing held last month, the Health Bureau announced a proposal to retain smoking lounges in the city’s casinos, in exchange for higher technical standards for smoking lounges.
The committee of Macau’s Legislative Assembly that is charged with analysing the smoking control bill is scheduled to resume its work on Tuesday, according to the official website of the assembly. The committee and the government must present any suggested amendments to the bill before passing it to a plenary session of the assembly for a final reading.
The bill could be scrapped if the Legislative Assembly fails to finish a final reading of it before mid-August, when the legislative term draws to a close.
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"VIP growth [in Macau] is roaring back on the heels of last year’s economic stimulus – but we think this could stall once the effect of the stimulus and the Chinese housing bubble wears off – as it did in 2013-14"
Cameron McKnight and Robert Shore
Analysts at Wells Fargo Securities