Macau casino gamblers continue their anxious wait for a final decision on the full smoking ban that has been under discussion for months.
Smoking has been prohibited on the mass gaming floors for almost a year even as it has been allowed to continue in the VIP gaming areas. The government has told advocates for either side of the issue that it has an open mind although it is generally believed that the central government in Beijing wants a full ban.
The problem for Macau casino operators was outlined n a Friday report by Bloomberg that said the ban being considered by Macau legislators “promises to set the city’s gambling parlors further apart from rivals in Singapore and other Asian gambling destinations.”
While a blanket ban would be a victory for those arguing the importance of steps that would benefit public health, “A full smoking ban will have a disastrous effect on Macau’s principal generator of tax revenue and the businesses servicing the interests of VIP gamblers.
After 15 consecutive months of revenue declines Kwok Chi Chung, the president of Macau’s Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters said a full ban will only push more gamblers out of Macau and point them toward other destinations where the smoking continues.
“The stakes are high,” Kwok says.
The fear is losing gamblers such as a man Bloomberg identified as Zhu, a businessman from northern China’s Shandong province. He said he would visit Macau less often if smoking is axed.
While smoking outside Melco Crown’s City of Dreams last month he said he could go to Korea, which is even closer to Shandong, South Korea is said to be developing as many as nine gaming resorts.
South Korea does not allow smoking in the one casino locals are allowed to enter. It does have smoking lounges, Bloomberg said but there are no smoking regulations in those casinos reserved exclusively for foreigners.
Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. Email: [email protected].