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Macau Casinos Get Reprieve on Indoor Smoking Ban

The Macau government is easing its position on smoking inside casinos, and that’s much-welcomed news to resort operators who are desperately trying to stabilize revenues.

Smoking lounges will remain open inside casinos after the Macau government reversed its opinion on making the city a smoke-free territory.

The health bureau’s revision is a win for casinos, as patrons would have otherwise been forced to routinely exit the resort to smoke a cigarette or cigar. However, the agency is also suggesting to the legislature that while lounges should be permitted, special smoking exemptions for VIP rooms and tables should be annulled.

The city’s health bureau has been pushing a citywide indoor smoking ban dating back to July 2015. The effort was in response to the Macau Legislative Assembly passing a bill now seven years ago that set a goal of making the region a tobacco and smoke-free territory. In 2013, smoking inside casinos became restricted to designated lounges.

The office makes suggestions to the government’s legislative arm, and it hopes the chamber will introduce and pass a bill based on its latest recommendations this summer.

Macau’s Health Director Cheang Seng said the reason for his department’s policy change was in part due to a recent survey conducted by the University of Macau that found 55 percent of employees support retaining smoking lounges.

‘We cannot ignore this fact,’ Seng explained.

Lounge Modifications

Lounges inside Macau casinos currently resemble those commonly found inside airports in the US. Most are completely enclosed structures, but doors often remain open for periods of time that allow smoke to permeate into the general gaming space.

Though the health agency is advocating for the continuation of smoking lounges, its recommendation comes with more stringent oversight and improved facilities to keep smoke from lingering to the floor.

A smoking lounge will be in violation of the law if its door remains open for a continuous period of 60 seconds or more. Tobacco-related advertisements will also be barred, while information explaining the dangers of smoking must be clearly displayed.

Money Reigns Supreme

Macau’s gambling goldmine mecca is home to the biggest names in the casino business. MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts are all heavily invested in the region, and all are of course concerned with the region’s gaming revenues that have plummeted since 2013.

China’s crackdown on VIP players being shipped in via junket tours has led to fewer bets being placed in the exclusive high-roller rooms. The city has experienced a rebound of sorts recently, as the resorts have moved from focusing on the wealthy traveler to a more family friendly approach.

Various attractions are now appealing to a wider demographic, and it appears to be working. Macau was booked solid for the Chinese New Year holiday earlier this month, as mainlanders descended on the city to see the Parisian’s new half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower and take a ride on Wynn Palace’s SkyCab.

While smoking might not seem part of the ‘family friendly’ plan, the fact is that cigarettes remain highly prevalent in China. According to data provided by The World Bank, one in two adult males is a regular smoker there.

Florida Gambling Expansion Reaches Impasse Between State House and Senate

A new Florida gambling expansion bill is diametrically opposed to the wide-ranging gambling reform package proposed in the Senate by the influential lawmaker Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton). Galvano’s bill (SB 8) received unanimous backing from senators at its first hearing late last month.

Florida State Senator Bill Gavano (right) said that the bill that opposes his legislation in the House is healthy for the debate about whether to expand gambling in the Sunshine State, and how to negotiate with the Seminoles. (Image: AP file photo)

It’s a political confrontation that one gaming lobbyist called ‘the stand off at the OK Corral,’ although its unlikely to end quite as badly for the parties involved.

The new Proposed Committee Bill (PCB TGC 17-01), put together by the House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee, seeks to rein in the opposing chamber’s push for slots and blackjack expansion. Among SB 8’s objectives is the expansion of slot machines into eight counties where they have voter approval.

SB 8 would also permit parimutuel venues to run blackjack games (previously a preserve of the Seminole tribe, which operates seven casinos on tribal lands throughout the state).

Blackjack Battle

The House bill broadly seeks to preserve the interests of the Seminoles, who have been at loggerheads with the state over their right to offer banked card games, namely blackjack, since the expiration of their compact in 2015.

PCB TGC 17-01 would allow the Seminoles again to be granted exclusivity on banked card games, this time in exchange for $3 billion in payments to the state over seven years.

In contrast, Galvano’s bill would charge the Seminoles the same fee over that timeline, but for the right to offer craps and roulette, as well as blackjack. Meanwhile, the right to offer blackjack would expand to parimutuel venues.

PCB TGC 17-01 would also preserve the interests of racetracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the only ones in the state where racetracks are permitted to operate slots. Galvano’s bill, on the other hand, would allow ‘decoupling’ at racetracks across the state, which means horse and dog racing operators would not be required to run live races and instead could offer other forms of gambling.

The House Bill would make decoupling a violation of the proposed compact with the Seminoles.

Room for Maneuver

In December, a federal judge ruled that the Seminoles could continue to offer blackjack at their properties until 2030, because the state had previously violated the compact by allowing cardrooms and racetracks to offer banked card games and electronic blackjack at their premises.

The state gambling regulator, FDBPR, made a serious error of judgment in approving these games and the ruling puts the Seminoles in a strong bargaining position as negotiations over a new compact continue. Whether the tribe will prefer to preserve the status quo and their monopoly on blackjack, as the House bill proposes, or take a gambling on roulette and craps exclusivity, is anyone’s guess.

Either way, Galvano said he welcomed the competing legislation as a healthy development in a state where gambling reform bills have historically been given short shrift.

‘It’s positive to see two bills, one in each chamber, moving this early in the process . . . in other words before session has even begun,’ the senator told the Sun Sentinel. ‘So with these two bills out there, we all know what the playing field looks like, and there’s time negotiate further with the Seminoles and [between] the chambers.’

UK Gambling Commission Accused of Cover up in ‘Lottery Rapist’ Fiasco

A prominent British politician has accused the UK Gambling Commission of a ‘cover up’ over how a convicted rapist was able to claim a £2.5 million ($3.11 million) lottery win with an allegedly fraudulent ticket.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the UK Tom Watson believes there should be ‘full disclosure’ of the Gambling Commission’s report on the alleged lottery fraud. The public’s faith in the lottery is at stake, he said. (Image: PA Images)

A Gambling Commission report said that Edward Putnam, who served seven years in the nineties for raping a pregnant teenager, was ‘more likely than not’ to have used a ‘deliberately damaged’ bogus ticket to claim the prize in 2009.

The modicum of doubt exists because UK national lottery operator Camelot has lost the offending ticket, a fact that resulted in the regulator hitting it with a £3 million ($3.7 million) fine over its ‘serious failings’.

‘It’s a bit like losing the murder weapon,’ a source close to the investigation told the Daily Mail recently.

Redacted Documents

But the ticket isn’t all that’s missing. The Gambling Commission report, obtained this week by the Daily Mirror, contains 195 either partly or fully blacked out pages, while another 79 pages have been removed entirely.

Deputy opposition leader Tom Watson said the public have a right to know what was redacted and why because public confidence in the lottery is at stake.

‘It seems the Great Lotto Robbery is in danger of turning into the Great Lotto Cover-up,’ he said. ‘Whilst the Gambling Commission have taken action against Camelot for its failure, the public will rightly want to see further action taken by authorities in order to recoup the money fraudulently taken.

‘…we need full disclosure of facts, the sequence of events and the failures to make sure something like this can never happen again,’ he added. ‘Pages of redacted evidence are not good enough.’

Was There an Inside Man?

One question that remains unanswered is whether Putman had help from a member of Camelot’s fraud detection department, as has been claimed by Daily Mirror sources.

It has been alleged that Giles Knibbs, an IT specialist working for Camelot at the time, may have provided Putnam with inside information, such as where the ticket had been purchased, which allowed him to perpetrate the alleged fraud,

According to the newspaper’s sources, Knibbs was promised a split of the money but he and Putman subsequently fell out.

Camelot appears myfreepokies.com to be have been unaware of the possible fraud until 2015 when it received the information from an unnamed whistle-blower, who may or may not have been Knibbs.

A subsequent police investigation ultimately concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to bring a case against Putman, who allegedly told police he was being blackmailed by Knibbs.

Tragically, Knibbs committed suicide just days before he was due to appear in court.

Sorry, Under-21ers: Nevada’s Minimum Gambling Age Not Expected to Decrease

Nevada’s minimum gambling age will likely remain at 21, despite Assemblyman Jim Wheeler’s (R-Gardnerville) efforts to slash the entry requirement to just 18.

Twenty-one is going to remain blackjack for those who want to enter a casino in Las Vegas, as the Nevada gambling age isn’t expected to be cut to 18 anytime soon. (Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Passed in 1931, Nevada law has mandated that patrons wishing to gamble be at least 21 years old. Assembly Bill 86 would amend that order, but Wheeler seems to be spinning his wheels.

During a recent meeting of the Nevada Gaming Commission, one regulator said the bill is ‘dead on arrival,’ and Chairman Tony Alamo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, ‘The industry has not come to us with any wants for dropping this [age].’

Wheeler’s attempts to slash the Nevada gambling age came as a result of being asked by a veteran who served in Afghanistan why he was old enough to fight for the country, but not old enough to gamble in the Silver State. The former businessman said he didn’t have an answer for the man, and as a result decided to introduce legislation to initiate a conversation on the matter.

To begin the process of joining any of the five branches of the US military, applicants can be as young as 17 with parental consent.

Age-Old Law

With strong opposition from the Nevada Gaming Commission, as well as the Nevada Resorts Association, Wheeler’s statute appears headed for nowhere. That’s mainly because lowering the gambling age to 18 would have created a bounty of potential regulatory concerns, while posing a minimal payout for the house.

Key among them: the 18-to-21-year-old demographic isn’t typically known for having robust bank accounts. They likely wouldn’t gamble big bucks in a given night, and with the drinking law remaining at 21, would require cocktail servers to card those on the floor.

In 2015, an undercover video produced by journalist Tim James highlighted the carefree approach some Las Vegas casinos take in determining if someone is of age to gamble and drink alcohol.

The sting targeted billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the man who is willing to spend ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the expansion of online poker and internet casinos. The Las Vegas Sands founder says his crusade is a moral mission, as he believes internet sites cannot adequately block underage patrons.

But the hidden camera footage revealed two underage patrons freely gambling and consuming alcohol inside Adelson’s Venetian property.

Young, But Not That Young

Nevada casino companies are in the process of developing new ways to attract the next demographic to Las Vegas. The millennial is reportedly less enthused with slot machines compares to previous generations, and that’s led to the slow development of skill-based gaming.

The millennial is the sought-after audience both in Las Vegas and throughout the worldwide casino business. But gambling companies are more than willing to hold off on the Centennials (sometimes called Gen Z), aka those born 1996 and later.

For most of the country, the minimum gambling age to play at land-based commercial casinos is 21. There are exceptions in some states, specifically California, New York, and Oklahoma (it varies by house in all three), but the consensus among law and gaming regulatory agencies is that you need to be old enough to drink in order to bet.

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