Fresh measures against smoking inside Macau casinos were formally announced on Tuesday. As had been widely expected, the city’s government proposes a total smoking ban inside gaming venues, including VIP rooms, and the elimination of existing airport-style smoking lounges on mass gaming floors.
The bill was announced by the city’s Executive Council – the Macau government’s main advisory body – in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
A provision in the existing law that allows for the creation of smoking lounges is absent from the revised bill, according to the documents released on Tuesday.
The bill will now be sent to the territory’s Legislative Assembly. Government officials have said they expect it to be implemented in early 2016.
At the press conference, the director of Macau’s Health Bureau, Lei Chin Ion, said the changes proposed by the government were done to safeguard the health and well being of Macau citizens, reported the Portuguese-language service of public broadcaster Rádio Macau. The revised bill on tobacco control was based on findings from surveys of residents, casino workers and tourists, Mr Lei added.
Investment analysts have estimated that a total ban on casino smoking in Macau is likely to shave 10 percent to 15 percent off already pressured VIP revenue. Analysts at UBS Securities Asia Ltd stated in a note on Monday that removing smoking lounges from mass floors could have “an approximately 10 percent impact on mass/slot revenues”.
Also in a note on Monday, Karen Tang of Deutsche Bank AG suggested that Macau’s six casino operators were focused on lobbying to keep the airport-style smoking lounges, “recognising the government’s strong will to ban smoking in VIP rooms”.
Some findings, released a fortnight ago, of a survey commissioned by the six gaming operators 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”.
The new bill would also regulate the use of electronic cigarettes, and impose a ban on their use in all public spaces, including casinos. The bill announced on Tuesday also states that the sale of electronic cigarettes would no longer be allowed in Macau.
The bill additionally includes provisions to increase the tax rate on retail sales of tobacco and the fines that can be levied on those that break the revised rules. Under the new bill, smokers that light a cigarette in forbidden areas will be subject to a fine of MOP1,500 (US$188), up from MOP600 under the current legislation.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings