The Macau Health Bureau under the leadership of its director Lei Chin Ion proposed a number of changes to the Tobacco law back in July 2015 which initially included a complete ban on smoking inside casinos. The proposal received a lot of criticism from gaming operators who believed that it would have a negative impact on their gross gaming revenues.
Since then the bill has been amended to remove the complete ban on smoking in casinos and to permit airport style smoking lounges at the casinos. The government also commissioned a special working committee to meet with all the stakeholders involved and to come up with a better proposal. The new proposal from the Health Bureau looks to maintain smoking lounges at the casinos provided that casino employees and other non-smoking patrons are not exposed to the smoke. The proposal also looks to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and impose more stringent restrictions on the sale of tobacco products.
Lei Chin Ion and his team are pushing hard for the new Tobacco bill to be approved before August 2017 as this will be the last month for the current legislative term. In a statement, Ion said “What we strive to do is to see this bill approved before the current legislative term ends in August 2017. We are still collecting opinions regarding whether to have smoking lounges inside casinos, and are now studying this subject.”
If the bill does not get approved before August 2017, the Health Bureau will have to scrap the bill and start the process of preparing a new bill for the next legislative assembly to review. The current legislative assembly in Macau was on a two month break from the middle of August to October 15. Before the assembly could break, the majority of the working committee members were okay with the proposal to retain smoking lounges on the casino floor.
Chan Chak Mo, the president of the working committee confirmed that his board still felt the same way about the Tobacco law and would arrange a meeting with the government and share their views. Chak Mo did not confirm when the next meeting will take place but confirmed that the government had set a deadline for the feasibility study on smoking lounges in casinos.
The government had earlier stated that it was aware that the Tobacco ban would negatively impact Macau’s casino industry which experienced 26 consecutive months of gross gaming revenue decline. However the government had made a decision to put the health of its citizens before the casino industry. Lei Chin Ion has not indicated when the Tobacco law would be implemented, should the government approve it before August 2017.