Just 12 of Macau’s 47 gaming venues in operation – including casinos and slot parlours – had submitted as of August 31 applications to have smoking lounges approved under the new set of technical standards, said a Tuesday press release from the city’s Health Bureau.
The document did not specify which gaming venues had applied for the new smoking lounges. It only stated that, in total, the 12 gaming venues had filed an aggregate of 88 requests for approval of smoking lounges.
Among the 88 requests, 10 smoking lounges in two gaming venues have been approved by the city’s authorities, stated the Health Bureau.
The first smoking lounge application approval was announced in April. It was submitted by casino hotel Ponte 16, a joint venture between casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd and Success Universe Group Ltd.
Studio City, operated by Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, was the second of two Macau casino resorts to have been granted approval for new-style smoking lounges in the local market, the Health Bureau said last week.
All Macau gaming venues wanting to continue to offer on-site smoking to patrons 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. From January 1, 2019, only authorised, enhanced, lounges will be permitted in the local market.
Macau’s gaming operators have to submit by September 28 any applications for new smoking lounges, in order for such requests to have a chance of being approved before the city’s new regime on smoking is enforced in casinos on January 1. The Health Bureau justified the September 28 deadline on the basis of how long it would take to inspect and approve the smoking lounges with enhanced technical standards.
Macau’s Legislative Assembly approved on July 14, 2017 a revised bill on smoking that bans tableside tobacco use in VIP rooms – the only places in the Macau 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 will in effect be permitted until January 1, 2019, as casinos have been given a year’s grace period to set up smoking lounges for VIP players.
Under the revised law, all smoking lounges in casinos – including the existing ones set up on mass floors since the ban on free-for-all casino smoking – will also have to conform to enhanced technical standards.
The Health Bureau said additionally in Tuesday’s release that the aggregate number of charges filed for instances of smoking in unauthorised areas inside the city’s gaming venues reached 1,140 in the first eight months of 2018. That represented an increase of 84 cases from the prior-year period, according to the official data.
Statistics from the Health Bureau showed that a total of 588 site inspections in relation to smoking were conducted inside casinos in the eight months to August 31 – up by 162 inspections compared to a year earlier.
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Chief executive of privately-held VIP junket business Suncity Group