Time is running out for Macau’s casinos to request approval to offer smoking lounges. The operators have until September 28 to make their case before regulators; however, as of August 31, only 12 of the 37 companies in the city have submitted the necessary applications. Those that don’t apply and offer smoking lounges will face fines of up to $24,747.
On-site smoking in casinos and all gaming venues can only take place in approved smoking lounges, according to recent law changes. The lounges must be equipped with advanced-technology smoke extractors, and all plans have to be approved by the Health Bureau. The new smoking rules went into effect at the beginning of this year, but a grace period of year was offered to allow the venues to upgrade their systems.
Gaming establishments were given the September 28 deadline to file their applications in order to allow inspectors enough time prior to January 1 to complete what would be an overwhelming amount of on-site visits. There is already a backlog of applications and, with the cutoff date approaching quickly, there will certainly be a run on the Health Bureau to submit requests and meet the deadline.
The 12 operators who have already submitted the necessary requests for their smoking lounges have handed in a total of 88 applications—one for every individual smoking lounge, as required. Among those, 10 in only two locations have already been approved. The first smoking lounge to receive the green light by authorities was the Ponte 16 casino hotel, a venture by SJM Holdings and Success Universe Group. In August, officials approved the requests of Melco Resorts and Entertainment’s Studio City.
Smoking in casinos was prohibited in Macau, except for tableside tobacco use in VIP rooms. Laws approved by the Macau Legislative Assembly in July 2017 made VIP room smoking illegal, as well. During the first eight months of this year, according to the Health Bureau, 1,140 charges for illegal smoking inside gaming venues were recorded. This was an increase of 84% year-on-year.
The Health Bureau also indicated that 588 on-site inspections related to smoking were conducted during the same period. During the same period last year, only 162 inspections were conducted.