The Law on Prevention and Control of Tobacco Smoke and possible exceptions to the smoking ban in Macau casinos were the topics of discussion at the 10th meeting of The Second Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly (AL) yesterday.

In an 8 to 2 vote, the majority of the committee decided in favor of a proposal regarding which of the Chinese special administrative region’s more than 30 gambling establishments must meet government requirements prior to 2019 in order that they be permitted to maintain smoking lounges inside of their respective facilities. Proposals including those various requirements were submitted by the government to the committee for discussion last week. The adjustments the government seeks look to improve the requirements insomuch as to help prevent harmful second-hand smoke from escaping from lounges into the general areas of the casinos.

The Macau Daily Times reports that according to Chairman Chan Chak Mo, the proposals include three exceptions to the smoking ban, including whether to allow casinos to establish smoking lounges; establishing designated smoking areas or smoking lounges in prisons; and maintaining rooms in tobacco stores where customers are allowed to sample tobacco products. During yesterday’s session, Chan reportedly revealed that all of the aforementioned suggestions were not accepted by the government and that the new bill still requires that smoking inside of prisons be prohibited. Also proposed by the government is that no shop, with the exception of cigar stores, be permitted to exhibit tobacco products.

The new amendments to the smoking bill are expected to go into effect early next year, however, the smoking lounges will not be permitted until January 1, 2019, the news agency reports. From that time on, with the exception of the smoking lounges that are in compliance with the government’s requirements, smoking will be completely banned in Macau casinos. Chan explained, “If the bill can be passed, it will come into effect on January 1, 2018, and, within one year, casinos can set up qualified smoking lounges,” according to the report.

Chan reportedly expressed his belief that smoking lounges can reduce second-hand smoke’s negative impact on casino employees. He also suggested that the region shouldn’t risk reducing Macau’s taxes, which the gaming sector contributes the highest proportion of, by prohibiting all smoking inside of gambling venues. Chand said, “We can’t predict the casinos’ losses if a full smoking ban is implemented.”

Government representatives will be invited by the committee next week to attend its meeting when the bill’s amendments will be discussed.

Currently, smoking lounges in Macau resemble those that are commonly found inside of airports in the U.S. However, smoke often escapes the smoking lounges and permeates the general gaming floor due to the doors being left open. That issue, along with the special requirements for the lounges, is expected to be addressed by Macau’s Health Bureau, which is working with the city’s six licensed casino operators, including Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment, MGM China, Melco Crown, Sands China, and SJM Holdings, to come up with agreed upon solutions to better protect employees and patrons and employees from harmful tobacco smoke, while at the same time allowing gamblers who wish to partake a space inside the property to do so, according to GGRAsia.

With the exception of special VIP rooms and designated areas, smoking has been banned inside casinos since 2013 in Macau. In July 2015, smoking in all indoor public places was outlawed by the government, however, as revenue from gaming decreased due to the crackdown on VIP junket operators by China, the city has been easing enforcement of the ban for casinos.