The working committee of Macau’s Legislative Assembly asked to examine the revised tobacco control bill has no schedule to finish its report, the group’s head told GGRAsia.
Legislator Chan Chak Mo added he was unsure whether the bill’s final vote could take place before the Legislative Assembly’s summer break in August.
Mr Chan presides over the second committee of Macau’s assembly. It is currently analysing the bill that proposes banning completely any smoking inside the city’s casinos.
Only after the committee has issued a report on the bill will the document return to the full assembly for its second and final reading.
The revised tobacco control bill includes provisions to outlaw smoking lounges on casino mass floors as well as smoking in VIP rooms. It also bans the sale of tobacco-related products in casinos. Legislators approved the first reading of the bill in July 2015.
“We will be meeting with a few [more] groups – labour groups and tobacco traders – to listen to their opinions on the bill,” said Mr Chan.
“We’re also collecting more economic data regarding the impact of the bill,” he added. “So at this stage I don’t know if the bill can be passed [before August].”
Mr Chan’s working committee is currently examining two other bills. He said that added uncertainty regarding when the work on the tobacco control bill could be finished.
Smoking on casino main floors in Macau is currently only allowed in airport-style enclosed smoking lounges that do not contain any gaming tables or slot machines. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.
Mr Chan’s working committee already met with several interest groups to discuss their views on the tobacco control bill, including representatives from the city’s six gaming concessionaires, from VIP gaming operators and from labour groups.
While local labour groups have demanded for a full smoking ban in casinos, some of the city’s casino executives have called on authorities not to ban smoking lounges. Junket operator representatives have also requested for the revised bill to allow smoking lounges inside VIP rooms.
The committee stage is the lengthiest part of the passage of a bill in Macau and it can – based on precedent – produce significant amendments to legislation. The Macau government has admitted it might reconsider its position regarding the proposed full smoking ban, depending on the results of the consultations being conducted by the Legislative Assembly’s working committee.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China