Grant Bowie, chief executive of Macau-based casino operator MGM China Holdings Ltd, says staffing VIP gambling rooms – where smoking will still be permitted after it is banned from mass floors from October 6 – needs to be a “collaborative” effort, bringing together workers and operators.
All mass-market casino floors in Macau must go smoke-free from October 6, the government announced earlier this month. Current regulations – in place since January 2013 – allow operators to set up smoking zones on the main floors of casinos comprising up to 50 percent of the gaming floor space.
Smoking zones inside VIP rooms will still be allowed after October 6, meaning high rollers will still be able to smoke while gambling.
Many dealers seem however unwilling to work in VIP rooms once the mass-market smoking ban is implemented, suggests a Macau-government sponsored survey.
The results, announced on Sunday, indicate that 58.4 percent of casino workers were unwilling to work in VIP rooms after the full smoking ban comes into effect on the mass-market floors. But some 12.7 percent of these casino workers would be willing to change their mind in exchange for a special allowance.
Asked by reporters on Tuesday if he feared MGM China would face difficulties in staffing its VIP rooms at casino-resort MGM Macau once the full mass-market smoking ban is in place, Mr Bowie replied: “We are confident that we can work with our team.”
He added: “What we are looking towards is a more holistic plan in terms of managing the situation, working through with our team members and ensuring that we come to a collaborative solution that accommodates the workers but also addresses the desires of the customers as well.”
Mr Bowie said it was “too early” to forecast the impact of the full mass-market smoking ban on casino gross gaming revenue. “Obviously this is a very important initiative and we need to work through [it] carefully,” he said.
Several analysts forecast the ban will have no measurable effect on gross gaming revenue.
Under the government’s proposal, all operators will be allowed to build smoking rooms on their mass-market floors, but without any gaming tables or slot machines inside. In theory they would be similar to smoking rooms found at major airports.
Mr Bowie stressed that the opinions of gamblers need to be considered. “We always must remember that Macau is dependent on the consumers to actually generate the income, generate the taxes.”
Health Bureau director Lei Chin Ion confirmed on Tuesday that two gaming venues have already informed the government that they will not set up any smoking rooms on their mass floors due to lack of proper infrastructure. That will mean that any customer that wants to smoke in those facilities will have to go outdoors.
Mr Lei said “some” casinos had already submitted draft proposals to set up enclosed smoking rooms on their mass floors, but he did not disclose further details.
Quizzed on that point by reporters, Mr Bowie did not confirm whether MGM Macau had already submitted its proposal for such facilities. He said only that MGM China was continuously working with the government on this issue.
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Amount that each Macau casino operator paid for the circa six-month extension of their respective contract