Announced in May, but coming into force on 6 October 2014, Macau’s smoking ban has already taken form on paper.
Out of the 41 casinos in Macau, the world’s largest gambling city, 39 have submitted their draft plans on instituting the ban, which will turn the main gaming halls into smoke-free zones.
Read more in our casino news section.
Macau ban in a nutshell
Under the new legislation, casinos will need to submit monthly reports on the quality of their air to the Macau Health Bureau.
The only rooms inside casino buildings where smoking will be allowed are the VIP rooms, although there is an expectation that dedicated smoking rooms will be built in due course.
This, of course, is a blow for smoking gamblers, who won’t want to interrupt their gambling just to duck outside for the smoke. This is also particularly problematic since, according to some statistics, China is home to about a third of the world’s smokers, with 25% or so of the population lighting up on a regular basis.
What’s going to happen?
With Macau introducing the ban, the speed of gaming will slow down, and casinos will be hit where it hurts – in the revenue. Previous bans of varying degrees in the US and Australia resulted in a drop in revenue of between 5% and 20%, and New Jersey’s Atlantic City was forced to partially rescind the ban, despite protests from croupiers and unionized workers.
And, following on from the bankruptcy of Revel last week, questions must also be raised about how much that particular casino’s comprehensive smoking ban had to do with their ultimate failure. That being said, though, most of Atlantic City’s casino floors are smoke-free, but how much of the current state of that city’s casinos can be attributed to the smoking ban is debatable.
In contrast, though, Nevada permits smoking on all casino floors, subject, of course, to the casino’s own policies. As you’ll no doubt be aware, Las Vegas is still the capital of North American gambling.
So why not just let people smoke in casinos and be done with it?
Let’s face it, and smoking is linked to gambling more than almost any activity. The mythical images of backroom poker games wreathed in smoke, or American retirees with one hand holding a cigarette and the other playing the slots, are ingrained into our cultural psyches.
And the connection between glitz, glamor, casinos and cigarettes is well-established too. Look at James Bond, for example – a chain smoker, a card player, and, as we saw in Sean Connery’s classic portrayals, a dapper gent with a light for the ladies.
The problem, of course, is a complicated one. On the one hand, players should be allowed to do what they enjoy; on the other, croupiers and other casino workers should be authorized to work in smoke-free or non-harmful environments.
It’s a tough question, which we certainly can’t answer in one article.
Let’s just leave it at this: it’ll be absorbing to see how this ban affects the gaming experience in Macau. We’re all for responsible gambling here, which means playing in a socially and physically responsible manner.
But if jobs disappear and casinos close down, we’ll be stuck without the old traditional brick-and-mortar casinos that we all know and love.
And if that happens, well, I’d hate to think of what the world will be like.
Then again, everyone thought that bars and pubs would stop trading all of a sudden, yet they’re still around and going strong. Perhaps it’s simply a case of getting used to the new status quo: what we think is unthinkable one day may prove to be the norm the next.
So let’s wait and see what happens. And if you want to light up in Macau, better get over there in the next month!