More than half of Macau casino staff that were polled, supported the retention of smoking lounges on casino main floors, according to a survey commissioned by the city’s six gaming operators. The results of the survey were announced at a press conference on Monday.
Monday’s announcement outlined that the University of Macau had conducted the survey, and that it took place in 33 interview locations across casino properties throughout Macau. A total of 14,301 respondent employees – a number said to represent around 13.4 percent of all gaming and non-gaming employees that worked for the six casino operators as of the survey date – responded to the poll. It was conducted on October 28 and 29 last year.
Nearly 73 percent of the survey respondents, or over 10,000 employees, were working in gaming operations, said Desmond Lam Chee Shiong, associate professor of hospitality and gaming management at the University of Macau, in Monday’s media briefing.
The Health Bureau said in a statement on Monday evening that it would give “cautious consideration” to the survey. It added the poll appeared to have been conducted in a “neutral” manner, and that the sample size was also “sufficient to represent [views of] the employees of the six casino operators”.
The issue of whether to retain the existing smoking lounges on casino main floors has been central to discussion of a bill proposed by the government for a full smoking ban inside casinos.
The University of Macau research team reportedly found that 45 percent of the gaming staff that responded – when asked for their views on the government’s original proposal, which had been tabled in July 2015 – supported such a ban. In December last year, the government indicated some flexibility in its stance, announcing it was assessing a proposal to retain gaming floor smoking lounges – provided that “high tech” improvements were made to prevent smoke leaking from them onto the main floor, and that they continued to be free of any gaming tables or machines.
According to the latest operator-commissioned survey, 55 percent of the gaming staff that responded were in favour of maintaining smoking lounges. A total of 44 percent of gaming staff respondents said they would opt for a solution allowing smoking only in smoking lounges, but banning smoking in all other areas; 11 percent preferred that smoking be allowed only in VIP gaming areas and in smoking lounges on mass gaming areas. The latter scenario is the existing practice in local casinos.
Airport-style enclosed smoking lounges were introduced on selected mass gaming floors in the city following an October 2014 ban on free-for-all smoking in designated parts of the main floor. Smoking in the then existing VIP rooms was unaffected and remains a possibility currently, although a question mark exists regarding whether the government will approve smoking in VIP rooms to be set up in yet-to-be opened properties.
The survey results announced on Monday indicated gaming staff respondents thought a full ban on smoking in Macau casinos would have a “positive impact” on their working situation.
When asked what would be the impact of removing all smoking lounges inside casinos – in other words, enforcing a full smoking ban on main floors – 63 percent of the gaming staff respondents replied that it would have a “positive impact” on them; 23 percent said it would result in “no impact”; and 14 percent reckoned that such a practice would bring a “negative impact” on employees.
Ambrose So Shu Fai, chief executive of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd, attended Monday’s press conference. He said the six operators would like to see existing smoking lounges retained inside casinos, in parallel with enhanced measures to prevent the leakage of smoke from them.
During the briefing he noted the city’s six casino operators had proposed to the government that “advanced specifications” for smoking lounges be introduced to the market by year-end 2017. Such specifications were endorsed by PolyU Technology and Consultancy Co Ltd, a service arm of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
“The proposed specifications were submitted to the government by the end of last year, and we hope that, upon approval, a certain grace period will be granted to us for upgrading the existing smoking lounges,” Mr So said during the briefing.
In comments to the media on the sidelines of the briefing event, the executive said operators hoped the grace period could extend to 12 to 18 months.
“…if the tobacco control bill [with amendments] will allow smoking lounges to be retained inside casinos, of course I believe every casino operator will set up their smoking lounges [for VIP gaming areas as well as the mass floor] with upgraded standards in accordance with government requirements. And [Grand] Lisboa Palace will do the same,” Mr So remarked, referring to the new Cotai property from his firm; due to be completed by the end of this year.
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