Macau’s smoking lounges aren’t going anywhere for now, as long as the health of casino employees isn’t jeopardized.
The smoking lounges were supported by a majority of the Macau Legislative Assembly working committee, which agrees with keeping them on casino main floors, rather than the total ban on smoking that the government proposed, according to GGRAsia. The committee also is in support of setting up new smoking lounges on the main floors of casinos that don’t already have them, said businessman and legislator Chan Chak Mo, on Thursday.
The total ban on smoking in the city’s casinos that was proposed could further depress the industry that is already experiencing a financial slump, according to investment analysts. If May records a decline in gross gaming revenue for casinos, it would be the 24th consecutive month of year-on-year drops. The tentative support given to smoking lounges by the working committee is conditional upon the ability to keep harmful second-hand smoke away from non-smoking guests and casino employees, said Chan in a briefing to local media following the committee session. On Thursday, the second committee of the Legislative Assembly, which Chan presides over, picked up where it left off in December in its examination of the legislation.
Currently in Macau, smoking on casino main floors is only permitted in airport-style enclosed smoking lounges free from slot machines or gaming tables, a partial restriction that was introduced in 2014. The government has required casino operators to obtain approval for such facilities while visitors to Macau’s VIP rooms in casinos are still free to light up.
A full smoking ban, such as the effort in Beijing to reduce lighting up in public places in the mainland, has been demanded by local labor groups, while the retention of smoking lounges has been lobbied for by some leaders of the local industry. In lieu of a complete ban on tobacco use in casinos, junket sector representatives have requested smoking lounges inside of VIP rooms. Chan suggested that a system such as those established for smoking lounges in the city’s airports could improve on the technical specifications for those lounges inside casinos. Whether or not such a system would be adopted, however, was a “political decision,” according to the second committee president.
Smoking control policies are overseen by Alexis Tam Chon Weng, Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, and he has said that allowing smoking lounges to remain inside casinos would fail to allow for proper control of second-hand smoke but that the government would be “open to suggestions from all parties.”
Chan told reporters on Thursday that he could not guarantee that the final reading of the revised smoking control bill would happen prior to the Legislative Assembly’s August summer break. The document won’t return to the full assembly for the second and final reading until a report of the bill has been issued by the committee.
This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the political process involved.