Under a revised law that came into effect on Tuesday (January 1) all smoking lounges in Macau casinos have to conform to enhanced technical standards and be approved by the authorities.
The city’s Health Bureau said that – as of Monday this week (December 31) – it had given permission for an aggregate of 378 new-style smoking lounges, 346 of which had been applied for prior to September 28. As of Wednesday, the bureau had received a total of 498 requests for installing new smoking lounges in casinos, it added in a release issued the same day.
A December report on the casino sector outlook for Macau from brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said the new smoking rules – that include a ban on tableside smoking in VIP gambling rooms – were “likely a headwind for the industry”.
But the authors added any negative impact from the smoking ban would “likely be temporary”.
Macau’s Legislative Assembly had passed on July 14, 2017 a revised bill on smoking that bans tableside tobacco use in VIP rooms – the only places in the Macau casino context that were still allowing smoking at the gaming table. Although the new rules came into force on January 1, 2018, tableside smoking at VIP rooms was in effect permitted until January 1, this year, as casinos had been given a year’s grace period to set up smoking lounges for VIP players.
According to official information in Monday’s Health Bureau announcement, an aggregate of 13 gaming venues had – as of that date – made no request for new-style smoking lounges. They were: the Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd-licensed Casino de Presidente; the SJM Holdings Ltd-licensed venues Eastern Casino, Grandview Casino, Macau Jockey Club Casino (based at the Macau Roosevelt Hotel), Casino Grand Dragon (rebranded from Casino Taipa Square), the Royal Dragon Casino; and seven Mocha Clubs slots venues controlled by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd. The latter are: Mocha Hotel Sintra; Mocha Macau Tower; Mocha Hotel Taipa Square; Mocha Golden Dragon; Mocha Inner Harbour; Mocha Kuong Fat; and Mocha Altira.
All Macau gaming venues wanting to continue to offer on-site smoking to patrons from January 1, 2019 onward, must apply to the local authorities to operate the new, higher-standard lounges, said to have better air extraction equipment than is mandated under the current regulatory regime.
The Health Bureau had stated last year it would consider any requests for permission for smoking lounges made after a September 28 deadline it had set, but would start assessing them only in 2019. The bureau had said it would take longer than usual to consider any requests that were either incomplete at the time of the deadline or filed after the deadline. This was because of the number of government departments that had input into the process.
On the first two days of the new law being in effect, Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau and the city’s Health Bureau jointly announced that 14 charges had been filed in relation to people smoking outside authorised areas in the city’s casinos. Nine charges related to visitors and five charges were against local residents. The Tobacco Prevention and Control Office additionally received 23 complaints about smoking in casinos, via the city’s anti-smoking hotline.
(Updated at 9.50am, Jan 3)
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"I think for our property [Grand Lisboa Palace], looking at breaking-even and stabilisation, will take… 12 months or so, or less”
Daisy Ho Chiu Fung
Chairman of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings