Macau Activists Unhappy Over Smoking Ban

An organization representing Macau croupiers and floor staff are calling for an industry-wide smoking ban to be extended to VIP rooms, which currently are exempt. The group also is displeased with the government’s enforcement of the existing ban amid reports that some casinos are flouting it by designating certain high-limit sections of their floors as VIP.

A labor group representing Macau casino dealers and floor staff says the government must do a better job enforcing the smoking ban that took effect in all public gaming areas on October 6 and is calling for private VIP rooms to also be declared smoke-free.

Members of Forefront of the Macao Gaming, which has organized several demonstrations this year by dealers seeking better pay and benefits, met with officials of the Health Bureau last week to discuss some apparent confusion about which areas are allowed smoking and how operators are taking advantage of what the association describes as loopholes in the new rules, in order to set up more smoking areas.

Ieong Man Teng, president of the group, said it wants the government to enforce strictly the anti-smoking law and ensure that gaming operators are prosecuted if they breach it.

The talks appear to be prompted by different legal views on the interpretation of the set of smoking rules have put the government and Melco Crown Entertainment at odds. The case might end up in court, Lei Chin Ion, head of the Health Bureau has said. Melco Crown executives confirmed on a recent earnings call that the company had converted most of its higher-limit mass-market tables to VIP to minimize any negative impact on revenues because of the ban.

Ieong said also that the group wants the smoking ban to be extended to VIP rooms, which are exempt under the existing rules.

“Ever since the smoking ban has been applied to the mass gaming floors, the effect on gaming revenue has been minimal. We want the VIP rooms to implement the ban as soon as possible,” he said.