The revised draft bill dealing with smoking inside Macau casinos is likely to be presented to a plenary meeting of Macau’s Legislative Assembly for a second and final reading in May, said legislator Chan Chak Mo. Mr Chan chairs the assembly committee analysing the revised bill proposed by the Macau government.
The government’s revised draft bill was deliberated on by the committee for the last time on Wednesday. “There are no more details to discuss. Our discussion ends today,” Mr Chan told reporters.
Following the detailed examination of the bill, the committee now has to issue a report before the bill returns to the assembly for its final reading. “It now depends on the volume of work required from our legal advisory team, but I think the bill could return to the assembly by May,” said Mr Chan.
The revised draft bill must be passed before the end of the current legislative term in August. If that deadline is missed, the proposed legislation would fall, and the process would have to start afresh.
The government had previously proposed that an updated regime on tobacco control for Macau should ban entirely smoking in the city’s casinos. But in a briefing held last month, the Health Bureau announced a proposal to retain smoking lounges in the city’s casinos, in exchange for higher technical standards for such facilities.
Under the revised plan outlined in the February briefing, tobacco use at VIP gambling tables is to be banned and high rollers would instead need to use smoking lounges. Smoking lounges would still be allowed on casino main floors, but subject to the enhanced technical standards.
The new, more stringent standards would be set in a separate executive order by the government. Executive orders do not need to be approved by the Legislative Assembly.
The proposed date of enactment of the revised bill was January 1, 2018, with casinos given 12 additional months to adapt to the new standards for smoking lounges, Mr Chan had previously said.
Macau’s Health Bureau and the city’s casino operators seem to have agreed on implementing a so-called “negative pressure” mechanism in smoking lounges to be set at -5 pascals. Casino operators had previously suggested a negative pressure level of -1 pascal.
On Wednesday, Macau’s Health Bureau director, Lei Chin Ion, said that casino smoking lounges that don’t comply with the revised rules by the 2019 deadline would be forced to close.
“New standards will be set [for smoking lounges]. Some casinos might already comply with these standards; those that do not, must introduce improvements until the proposed deadline [in 2019],” Mr Lei told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with legislators.
“If their smoking lounges do not comply with the [revised] standards by the deadline, the smoking lounges will be closed,” he added.
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