Macau Casino Workers: Partial Smoking Ban Not Good Enough

Macau limits smoking in casinos to VIP rooms where the high rollers play. Employees of those casinos are now demanding a total ban on smoking within one year. They are recruiting citizens to support the campaign. And now the government may be getting behind the ban.

Union: Three of four don’t want to work in smoking rooms

Employee unions in Macau, which are calling for a full ban on smoking inside casinos, may have a new ally in the local government.

According to CDC Gaming Reports, Macau’s government will join the push for a complete ban on smoking in casinos. Alexis Tam, the city’s secretary for social affairs and culture, told Teledifusao de Macau cited that the government will submit a bill to lawmakers in the first half of this year to ban smoking throughout casinos.

The unions have already asked residents to help by signing a petition in favor of the ban. According to the Macau Daily Times, the Macau Federation of Trade Unions (FOAM) and its affiliates will collect at least 10,000 signatures in support of the cause.

At a recent press conference, Choi Kam Fu, director-general of the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association, pointed out that the smoking ban that went into effect throughout the city on January 1 included just one exception: casino VIP rooms. Choi said casino operators “have shown their indifference to employees’ health by taking irresponsible measures to counter the smoking ban.” He also said some casinos are not observing even the partial ban.

The number of people in Macau working for the gaming industry reached an all-time high during the fourth quarter of last year, reported GGRAsia. There were 87,000 people employed by the sector during the October-December 2014 period, industry statistics say. According to a survey published in December by the Federation of Trade Unions, three out of four workers, or 78 percent, don’t want to work in smoking areas, even if they get extra compensation.

Some analysts say a smoking ban could further damage the VIP segment; high-roller revenue fell 29 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, and 10.9 percent for the year of 2014. VIP casino revenue accounted for 61 percent of all casino revenue during the fourth quarter of last year, reported Union Gaming.

The U.S.-based research firm said it expects the government to ban smoking in VIP rooms, but hopes “cooler heads would prevail once the bill comes up for debate and that the smoking lounges are allowed to remain (this would, in fact, be well within international norms for other large buildings like airports).”

If a full ban is approved, it will likely take effect “no later than early 2016,” Union Gaming predicted.