Macau Gaming Junket and Entertainment Association (AMJEM) Chairman Kwok Chi Chung said Sunday that a blanket smoking ban would be a “disastrous blow” to the troubled gaming industry.
Kwok was one of the panellists attending Sunday’s Macau Forum. The open-air debate programme is hosted by government broadcaster TDM in Areia Preta Park every Sunday.
Over 40 members of the public were in the park yesterday to voice their concerns over the government’s controversial proposal to impose a blanket smoking ban on all casinos and slot-machine parlours.
Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Alexis Tam Chon Weng said during a Q&A session in the legislature last month that he would push for a full smoking ban in all gaming premises, underlining the “ineffectiveness” of smoking lounges in protecting gaming industry workers and visitors from second hand smoke.
Tam’s proposal faces strong opposition as several gaming operators and groups like Kwok’s association representing the gaming industry question whether it is the right time to promote such a law at a time when the gaming industry revenue is on the decline. However, Tam has stood firm. He said last week he believed that a smoking ban and gaming revenue drops are unrelated.
Kwok said that from his experience, many VIP room gamblers who currently generate about 56 percent of Macau’s gaming industry’s revenue are heavy smokers. He said a blanket smoking ban during the industry’s current dire straits would be “disastrous” for the city’s overall revenue, as Macau relies heavily on high rollers who would likely visit other regions and countries where they can gamble and smoke at the same time.
Kwok added that as casinos have an age limit, children would be safe from second hand smoke. He said he would prefer the government to provide better guidance and regulations for smoking lounges, punishing any operators who failed to follow them. The minimum casino entry age stands at 21.
Macau Responsible Gaming Association President Billy Song Wai Kit, who was also on the panel, agreed with Kwok, pointing out that other regions and countries have not implemented a full smoking ban in casinos. While he praised the government for leading the anti-smoking drive, he also questioned whether it’s appropriate to implement such a ban at this economically difficult point of time.
Song suggested that the government should start by improving smoking lounge regulations, and maybe gradually implement the ban if necessary.
Fellow panellist Tang Chi Ho, who heads the Tobacco Prevention and Control Office, said that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there was simply nothing as effective to protect people’s health as a full smoking ban, pointing out the risk of third hand smoke or human negligence.
Tang maintained that a full smoking ban is fair to those who do not wish to suffer from any smoking-related health issues. “As a doctor, I couldn’t support anything that is harmful to people’s health,” he added.(macaunews/macaupost)