A revised draft bill that deals with smoking inside Macau’s casinos will have a second reading in a plenary meeting of the city’s Legislative Assembly on July 14 (Friday). This is the last stage before the bill – if approved – is enacted.
The announcement was made by the Macau legislature on its official website.
According to several local commentators on Macau politics, it is likely the bill will be passed. If so, it will come into effect on January 1, 2018. The city’s casinos will be given until the start of 2019 to implement new and more stringent standards for smoking lounges as set out by the revised draft.
The Macau government banned in October 2014 smoking on casino mass floors. An exception was made for tobacco use in enclosed smoking lounges – facilities without gaming – located on some casino mass-market floors in the city. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in areas designated “VIP”.
If the revised draft bill passes the Legislative Assembly, smoking in casino VIP areas also would be limited to smoking lounges free of gaming. The legislation would also stipulate that smoking lounges adhere to enhanced technical standards. They will be established in a separate executive order by the government.
The timetable is tight for the Legislative Assembly to approve the bill, as the current legislative term finishes in August. An election will take place in September to decide who will sit in the chamber for the next four years. If the proposed legislation did not pass the Legislative Assembly before the August deadline, it would fall, and the legislative process on the revised smoking proposals would have to start afresh.
Brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) said in a note in March that the impact on casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) of the revised bill should be “manageable” for casino operators. The institution said it expected the new rules would have a sector-wide impact in 2019 equal to approximately 5 percent of annual GGR.
Statistics from Macau’s Health Bureau show that a total of 328 people were fined in Macau in the first half of 2017 for smoking in unauthorised areas inside the city’s casinos. That is an increase of 18.4 percent compared to the prior-year period, when a total of 277 people were fined.
The official data indicate that a total of 312 site inspections related to smoking were conducted inside casinos between January and June.
The majority of those fined for smoking in unauthorised areas of casinos in the first half of 2017 – 83.5 percent – were tourists, according to a Friday press release from the Health Bureau. A total of 274 tourists were fined in the January to June period, up by 22.3 percent from the previous year.
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China