Macau’s Health Bureau said it has warned one of the city’s six gaming operators about the construction of smoking areas with gaming on its mass floors.
The bureau said on Saturday the company’s plan did not completely separate the smoking areas from the mass-market gaming areas. It did not identify the operator.
All mass-market gaming floors in Macau must go smoke-free starting from October 6, following next month’s Golden Week holiday, which includes the National Day celebrations of the People’s Republic of China on October 1. Casino operators are allowed to build smoking lounges on their mass-market floors, but they must not have any gaming tables or slot machines.
In addition, Macau casino operators have to set up their VIP and premium mass rooms in “separate areas” or isolate them with “physical or architectural barriers” from the main casino floor if smoking is to be allowed in those private rooms.
The size of the smoking areas in these private rooms together with the smoking lounges must be smaller than 50 percent of the overall gaming area of the casino. The city’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau issued the new rules in July.
The majority of the city’s gaming venues – including casinos and slot-machine parlours – have already submitted the final plans to the government for setting up the smoking lounges on their mass floors.
Labour groups however have doubts about those plans. Representatives from three casino labour activist groups last week expressed worries about what they think are likely working conditions once the smoking ban goes into effect next month.
The three groups warned about casino operators converting part of their mass-market floor areas, namely high-limit gaming areas, into ‘limited access areas’ to allow smoking and gambling inside.
Lei Chin Ion, head of Macau’s Health Bureau, reiterated on Saturday that his bureau would “rigorously” inspect the smoking lounges and smoking areas that gaming operators are allowed to set up under the new rules.
Mr Lei said the government would pay special attention to the installation of new gaming areas in mass-market floors, to ensure they comply with all relevant regulations.
He also said casinos will have to go 100 percent smoke-free in their mass floors after October 6 if their smoking lounges have not been inspected and approved by then. The full ban would remain until the smoking lounges are approved and operational, he added.
The Health Bureau’s Saturday statement added that “it is foreseeable that not all” of the city’s gaming venues will be able to finish the construction of their smoking lounges ahead of the October 6 deadline.
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Lionel Leong Vai Tac
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance