Macau was once a gambling haven as casinos provided gamblers with VIP treatment in order to attract them and keep their business. Smoking wasn’t considered a luxury but a basic right in casinos until Macau decided to ban smoking in gambling venues but permitted casinos to have smoking lounges. The smoking ban was rolled out in October 2014 and upset both casinos and gamblers who felt like the government was restricting their privileges.
Macau has decided to amend its smoking bill and make it more stringent as the city’s executive council has now proposed a bill which looks to impose a blanket ban on smoking inside gaming revenues. The new bill will not allow casinos to make provision for any smoking lounges or VIP smoking rooms. The bill will be submitted to the territory’s Legislative Assembly and if approved, will most likely be rolled out during the start of 2016.
The government in Macau has declared a ‘war on smoking’ and the new bill has caused a lot of controversy as casinos have complained that their declining revenues due to Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign will be further affected with this blanket smoking ban. Gamblers from Mainland China have continued to stay away from Macau’s casinos due to the new restrictions and have preferred to go to neighbouring countries where they find a lot more liberty.
Macau’s casinos have suffered major losses during the last 12 months and industry analysts predict that this blanket smoking ban will add to those losses. Analysts predict a ten to fifteen percent decline in VIP revenue as the new smoking ban will seek to ban and remove VIP smoking lounges.
The new bill also has a number of other clauses that target the tobacco industry. There will be a tax increase on the retail sales of tobacco products and strict fines will be imposed on businesses that breach these rules. The bill also targets individuals who use electronic cigarettes and makes it clear that electronic cigarettes cannot be used in casinos and public spaces. The current fine for smoking in forbidden places is around $50 but the new bill has increased the fine and now individuals found smoking in forbidden areas will have to pay close to $188.
In a statement, Director of the Health Bureau, Lei Chin Ion said “Predictions tell us that the economy will be hit by these measures. But there are different predictions. We are concerned with public health and without health, there is no economy at all”.