Casino operator SJM Holdings plans up to 100 more smoking lounges for its numerous casino hotels running under its gaming concession, even as it awaits approval for these from the government.
Macau News Agency reported SJM CEO Ambrose So Shu Fai as saying that the company has already applied for at least 10 smoking lounge licenses with the Macau Health Bureau.
The ban on smoking in casinos was first enforced in 2014, but still allowed for smoking in certain enclosed areas. The law was expanded in January of this year, to limit smoking in VIP rooms, but casinos have been given a year to comply, meaning that come January 1, 2019, the new lounges should be constructed and have the proper permits.
The Health bureau gave until September 28 for applications, in which 27 casino establishments were said to have applied, for a total of 404 licenses. The list, however, did not include SJM’s casinos, even the ones run by third parties under the SJM license. To this, So said, “We did [apply]… My colleague just said that there are at least 10 or 11 smoking lounge applications submitted and now being evaluated.”
Macau News Agency cited Sanford C. Bernstein as saying that SJM stood to lose out to other casino operators due to the absence of approved smoking areas in its premises. The brokerage had also noted a decline in gross gaming revenue (GGR) beginning in October 2014, coinciding with the implementation of the smoking ban for mass market tables.
So said he was not too worried of any long-term problems, as the company will eventually have its applications approved. “If it’s not in time, then it’s not in time. We will try to at least make some [smoking lounges] pass the inspection,” he said.
From January to October of this year, the Health bureau conducted 725 on-site inspections, with 1,431 people fined for prohibited smoking, compared to 779 in the same period last year.
SJM will add 500 gaming tables for its Grand Lisboa Palace in Cotai, a project costing $4.6 billion projected for completion in late 2019 or early 2020.