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Casinos accused of concentrating most popular games in smoking zones

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Local casino employees are reportedly facing higher health risks despite the new smoking ban that requires all casinos to set up a non-smoking zone not less than half of their total gaming floor area. Several casino workers’ associations have accused all of the six gaming concessionaires of taking advantage of the new regulation’s loopholes by assembling gaming tables and popular games together into smoking areas, leaving croupiers and other workers exposed to even higher densities of cigarette smoke. They called for amendments to the regulations as well as stricter enforcement, and some of them even warn of strikes if the situation continues.
 The new smoking control regulation took effect on the first day of this year (Tuesday, 1st January 2013) allowing casinos to operate smoking areas up to 49 percent of their gaming floors, and all 44 casinos across the 6 concessionaires successfully applied to operate smoking areas, ranging from 34 to 49 percent of their floor-space.
But one day after the new rules came into effect workers started reporting management to be taking advantage of the loopholes and grey areas. “Our frontline workers told us that casino operators are assembling the most popular games and the manually operated games together into the smoking zones,” said Choi Kam Fu, Deputy Director-General of the Macau Gaming Enterprises Staff’s Association, “and leave the automatic ones such as slot machines in the non-smoking areas.”
He told MDT that the gaming operators are obviously abusing the rules that merely limit the smoking areas but don’t control the distribution of gaming tables or the categories of games. “As a result, most workers are still working in areas constantly filled with second-hand cigarette smoke. Air quality has not improved significantly, it might have deteriorated, and that’s the worst scenario, the one we were most worried about (when the new regulation was first proposed).”
 “Before the new rules are implemented, many smokers went to remote or hidden corners to smoke, but now it seems they have no choice but to go to the casino tables in the smoking areas,” said Leong Sun Iok, Vice-President of the Association’s Board of Directors of the Macau Gaming Industry Laborers Association. “That makes the smoke denser around the tables in the smoking areas, and it means higher risks for workers positioned there.”

Our frontline workers told us that casino operators are assembling the most popular games and the manually operated games together into smoking zones

- Choi Kam Fu

According to the Forefront of the Macao Gaming, frontline workers mostly expressed doubts regarding the new rules, their direct feedback included the statements; “unmanned tables/ machines should not be counted as non-smoking areas”, “the government doesn’t know the difference between 50 percent of floor area and 50 percent of gaming tables (as non-smoking areas), and that’s why we’re inhaling more cigarette smoke”, “if they don’t use the number of tables instead of floor areas for measuring non-smoking areas, the new rule should be scrapped, otherwise we only suffer more”, “All VIP smoking rooms have to close their doors. Creating small and enclosed spaces, we die sooner than later (…) Are they trying to force us to strike?”
When asked which casinos have the worst conditions, Leong told MDT that in his initial observation of the casinos, the smaller ones seem to have more serious problems because of lower ceilings and less efficient ventilation systems, while those inside the large resorts have better conditions; Choy said the problems exist in virtually all of the 6 concessionaires’ casinos.
SJM Managing Director and directly elected legislator Angela Leong On Kei last month openly called for a complete smoking ban in all casinos.. According to the Health Bureau, SJM has secured a maximum of an average of 44 percent of smoking areas across its 19 casinos. Consequently forefront of Macau Gaming’s Chairman, Ieong Man Teng and Director Lei Kuok Keong handed their petition to her office last month her surprising appeal as part of preliminary campaign for re-election this year.
The Health Bureau said 42 people were issued with penalties for smoking violations on the first day of enforcing the new rules in local casinos. 21 of them were Mainlanders, nine from Hong Kong, and only four Macau residents were fined. 

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