The Macau Health Bureau announced it would fine local casinos if they do not enforce the citywide smoking ban, starting in 2019. The bureau set down a timeline for operators to file smoking lounge applications or correct information on previous applications.
The Health Bureau indicated that roughy 40% of Macau casinos did not submit proper applications for smoking lounges before the September 2018 deadline. Those which fail to fix that oversight will be subject to MOP$200,000 fines starting on January 1, 2019.
Such fines would amount to roughly US$24,000 fines, though it is uncertain if such fines would be levied per casino or per smoking lounge. Macau casinos have an average of 8 to 10 smoking lounges apiece.
The January 1st due date will be one year to the day that the New Tobacco Control Act went into effect. The New Tobacco Control Act was the second smoking ban in three years, with the 2017 Control Act much more widespread than the one imposed in 2015.
2018 New Tobacco Control Act
The 2018 smoking ban increased the non-smoking areas across Macau, while imposing a 100% ban on smoking in VIP areas of Macau casinos. Instead, players are required to smoke within specially ventilated smoking rooms. At the time the 2018 New Tobacco Control Act went into effect, casinos has 12 months to fully implement the ban.
That timeline is quickly coming to a close, but the Health Bureau says that most casino operators have not fulfilled their obligations. Only 27 of the 47 Macau casinos submitted proper applications by the September deadline, but that number does not state the full lack of compliance.
404 Smoking Lounges in Macau Casinos
At the moment, Macau casinos has 404 smoking lounges in the 47 casinos, but only 12 smoking rooms in 3 casinos have been approved. Despite the deadline passing, the Health Bureau said it would continue to accept applications, though the way late applications will be processed might be different.
A Health Bureau statement said, “For applications where the casino submitted [an application] on or before 28 September, the Health Department will review it according to established procedures.”
“If the information submitted is accurate and meets the statutory requirements, the smoking rooms of the entertainment establishment can be licensed and used on or before 1 January 2019 upon consultation with the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) and the Fire Services Bureau, and through cross-departmental joint inspection.”
Late Applications Could Led to Shutdowns
Those casinos which did not comply with the application process guidelines might find approval delayed, which could itself lead to the suggested 2019 fines. The statement continued, “The Health Bureau stresses that if the applicant submits a document that is missing, incorrect or does not meet the statutory requirements, fails to complete the advice of Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau or the Fire Services Bureau, departmental joint inspectors may delay the approval process.”
The Health Bureau said those who are not in compliance with local laws will have their rooms shut down and a MOP$200,000 fine imposed on the casino operator. One Macanese Capata (MOP) is worth $0.12 cents, so the fines would be $24,000 apiece. The Bureau said the policy is being implemented “to ensure the effectiveness of law enforcement and the suppression of illegal smoking.”
Smoking Ban on VIP Rooms Is Key
The New Tobacco Control Act was designed to protect casino employees from having to work in a smoke-filled environment. Macau media reported that 2015 smoking ban was not enforced in the VIP rooms, which led to the more stringent 2018 law.
If the Health Bureau’s statement is taken at face value, then it appears the new ban will be more strictly enforced. Health Bureau agents will man the smoking lounges 24 hours a day. Also, the Health Bureau plans to conduct “joint assault tobacco control inspections” alongside control agents of the Macau Gaming, Inspection, and Coordination Bureau (DICJ). The DICJ handles day to day oversight of Macau’s casinos, much like the Nevada Gaming Control Board handles such oversight in Las Vegas.
The Health Bureau said its 2019 smoking control inspections alongside the Gaming Bureau is designed “to ensure the effectiveness of law enforcement and the suppression of illegal smoking.”