IAG MAR 2014 - page 8

8
INSIDE
ASIAN
GAMING
|
March 2014
In Focus
Photo: KarlBaron/flickr
Breathe
This
Pryingthecigarette
out of a
gambler’shand isnever easy. Perhaps it’s a
little easier now than it used tobe as smoking
ratesgenerally havedeclinedworldwide,
substantially so in themoredevelopednations,
andgovernmentshavemovedaggressively to
restrict thehabit or ban it outright aspart of the
global war onpublic tobacco consumption they
beganwaging in earnest around 30 years ago.
Restrictions on smoking in casinos are hardly
new—California’s, for example, date back
to 1995, NewSouthWales’ to 2002—but
introducing them invariably is difficult and
expensive, particularly in terms of the blow to
the top line that accompanies them, at least
initially.
InAsia, a regionwhose love affair with
cigarettes has been long anddeep, they are
unheardof in the gambling space, which
findsMacau as somethingof a pioneer in
its attempt, now a year in, to strike a balance
betweenpublic health andprofits.
In essence this has involved carving the city’s
booming gaming floors intomore or less even
halves, smoking andnon-smoking. It’s not
working, tohear it from the representatives of
the croupiers andpit staff it was designed to
protect. This is not surprising, since the intent
hasn’t been to curtail the amount of smoke
in casinos but to corral it. It hasn’t been very
effective at this either, judgingby air quality
tests, inpart because the lawdoesn’t require
physical barriers between the halves, which
often exist side by side, especially onolder and
smaller floors, andbecausemanagement has
responded, as youmight expect, bymoving
more games, alongwith the dealerswho
man them, into the halveswhere everyone’s
smoking.
On the plus side, at least they nowprovide
non-smoking areas, which they hadn’t given
much thought tobefore—andwhywould they,
with gamblers pouring in frommainlandChina
in increasingnumbers every year, stoking a
market whose revenues are the amazement of
theworld. TheChinese are as religious about
their smoking as they are their baccarat.
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