Applications for a total of 73 smoking lounges across Macau’s casino market were pending government approval as of early July this year, said Health Bureau director Lei Chin Ion in a written reply to a question from Macau legislator Ella Lei Cheng I.
The official statement, publicised on Wednesday, did not specify which casinos had applied for the smoking lounges. It did state that a total of 86 smoking lounges were designated as government-approved facilities in the city’s casino market as of early July, but didn’t list where they were. Of that number, 83 were located on main or ‘mass’ gaming floors; while the remaining three smoking lounges were situated in “areas restricted to certain gamblers”.
In October 2014 the Macau government banned smoking on casino mass floors. An exception was made for tobacco use in enclosed smoking lounges – facilities without gaming – located on some casino mass-market floors in the city. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.
The main floor ban had brought an “apparent improvement” in the air quality inside casinos, Mr Lei remarked in his answer to Ms Lei, a legislator affiliated to an influential local labour grouping called the Macau Federation of Trade Unions. Some local casino workers have complained that smoking lounges do not sufficiently protect them from secondhand smoke.
As of the first half of this year, a total of 277 people have been fined for smoking in unauthorised areas inside the city’s casinos, Mr Lei stated. His department has also received 561 complaints in the period regarding alleged smoking rules violation inside casinos, of which 90 percent of the cases were transferred to the city’s casino regulator Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau for further follow up.
The government is now pushing for a full smoking ban inside casinos as part of a scheduled revision of the city’s tobacco control law. But the majority on the Macau Legislative Assembly working committee asked to scrutinise the revised tobacco control bill currently supports the retention of smoking lounges on casinos. The working committee is currently on its summer break: it will only continue reviewing the bill after October 15 at the earliest, once the Legislative Assembly’s two-month recess ends.
A number of investment analysts have said that were smoking to be banned outright from the city’s casinos, it could have a negative affect on gaming revenue generated from smokers; as they would spend less time at a gaming table or a gaming machine if required to step outside to pursue their tobacco habit.
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