Gaming operators will have until January 1, 2019 to install new smoking lounges or update their current ones to meet new standards set by the authorities if the smoking ban bill passes in the local legislature, according to the second standing committee of the Legislative Assembly (AL).
Last month, the Health Bureau proposed amending the drafted bill proposing a full smoking ban inside gaming revenues, allowing gaming operators to set up smoking lounges that can meet a series of standards.
Discussing the amendments for the bill yesterday, the chairman of the AL sub-committee, Chan Chak Mo, said the new bill will be enforced on January 1 next year if it is approved by the legislature, while new requirements for smoking lounges have to be met within the following year after implementation.
The committee chairman said a meeting with the government would be scheduled next week to inform the latter of the opinions and suggestions collected by the sub-committee, of which two members – Ng Kuok Cheong and Leong Veng Chai – still oppose the establishment of smoking lounges and have questions about the standards.
Nevertheless, the sub-committee chairman expects the bill can be sent for a final reading at a plenary session next month, adding he believes the bill can be approved by the end of this legislative term in August.
“We currently have five law proposals under discussion. But with extra hours and more meetings, I believe we will be able to conclude all of them by August 15,” said the committee chairman.
Standards not confirmed
The government’s proposed amendments to the bill follow a survey commissioned by the six local gaming operators that concluded that 60 per cent of 14,301 interviewed employees agree with ‘solutions that allow smoking lounges’ in casinos.
However, Mr. Chan stated that new standards for the new smoking lounges are still under discussion between the government and gaming operators, adding that the standards would be dispatched by the Chief Executive once the parties define the list.
Over the weekend, the Deputy Director of the Health Bureau, Cheang Seng Ip, said that all six local gaming operators have agreed with the proposed specifications for smoking lounges in casinos made by the Bureau.
The Health Bureau currently requires that smoking lounges in casinos generate a negative pressure of at least -5 pascal (Pa), which is similar to operating rooms in hospitals and medical centres, for the prevention of cross-contamination from room to room.
While smoking is currently only allowed in the smoking lounges of mass gaming floors and VIP rooms, the new bill, once passed, implies gaming operators would have to install smoking lounges in their VIP areas as well.
Questioned how new integrated resorts that are still under construction can set up smoking lounges that meet future standards, the chairman of the sub-committee said that these gaming operators will “have to install them and possibly update them later.”
The sub-committee also accepted changes to the bill proposed by the government; namely, including electronic cigarettes in the legal framework and probating the showcase of tobacco products in non-specialised places of sale, such as street stands.