Almost a month ago, local media in Macau reported that a possible smoking ban could be implemented in 2016 and result in the loss of thousands of jobs, in the gambling industry. However, the most recent statement made by Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture gives hope that the government might reconsider its position regarding the ban.

According to the Secretary, Alexis Tam Chong Weng, Macau is willing to keep an open mind on whether casinos are allowed to keep their smoking lounges and allow setting up of smoking lounges in VIP rooms.  He pointed out that the final decision partly depends on the results of the ongoing 60-day public consultation process. The first reading of the bill was approved by legislators on the 10th of July, whereas currently it is at committee stage in the Legislative Assembly. In any case, whatever is decided, the revised rules won’t become law before next year.

Secretary Tam said that if the result really showed the general public and gaming practitioners all agree on “setting up smoking rooms within casinos,” the Macau government would invite the sector to provide suggestions and discuss the standards for “smoking room setups.” However, Tam didn’t forget to highlight that it was still “too early” to discuss the government’s next step.

Anyone who wants to state opinion concerning the proposed smoking ban can do so via email or letter until the 30th of September, 2015. All these opinions will be revised and taken into account by the working committee before making a final decision. In addition, the committee is expected to meet with representatives from Macau’s gaming concessionaires, junket operators and casino workers in order to hear their views about the possible impact of the changes proposed in the bill.

One of the main reasons why a smoking ban was proposed in the first place was protecting the health of casino workers and visitors. Thus, since Tam on previous occasions had argued that smoking lounges were not 100% effective in preventing exposure to second-hand smoke, Macau casino operators fear that this option might be easily flagged as unsatisfactory.