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Archive for January 1st, 2019

Macau’s Health Bureau Licenses 378 Casino Smoking Lounges

Macau’s Health Bureau issues more than 370 permissions for smoking lounges at city casinos ahead of new law’s implementation

Macau’s Health Bureau has licensed 378 smoking lounges at the city casinos as of today, December 31, local news outlet the Macau Business reports, citing information from a press release issued by the Bureau earlier today.

Macau’s new rules for smoking at casinos, which are set to take effect on January 1, require the city’s gambling venues to obtain licenses from the Health Bureau that would authorize them to operate dedicated on-property smoking lounges. Smoking will only be allowed at those lounges as from tomorrow.

As many as 404 license applications were submitted by the September 28 deadline. A total of 27 of the city’s more than 40 gambling venues had filed the necessary paperwork with the Health Bureau by that time. The agency said today that 346 of the approved applications were submitted before the deadline, which represents roughly 86% of all received applications.

According to the Health Bureau’s most recently updated list, there are 13 venues that are yet to apply for smoking lounge permission, with some of those being Presidential Casino, Grandview Casino, Regency Art Hotel, and seven Mocha Club sites.

Fines for Illegal Smoking

Macau’s new law instructs local casinos to watch closely for any violations and to avoid such breaches of the rules. Violators are facing fines of up to MOP20,000. Repeated violations would be penalized with tougher actions by the competent authorities.

Under the new rules, smoking will only be allowed at smoking lounges. The facilities should be located at least three meters away from slot machines at the gaming floors. In addition, casinos should make sure that smoking alarms are installed and that signs informing visitors about the dangers of smoking should be “displayed conspicuously” in areas where they can be spotted easily.

Smoking in Macau’s casinos has long been prohibited with very few exceptions. Up until mid-2017, VIP rooms at the gambling venues allowed their clientele to smoke while gambling. However, the Macau Legislative Assembly adopted a new legislation that prohibited smoking in that areas, as well.

As the city is gearing up for the enforcement of the new smoking rules, the Health Bureau has intensified its efforts to spot any violations of the existing regulations. The agency detected 1,431 breaches of those regulations during the first 10 months of the year. That figure represented an increase of 84% from the previous year.

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Three Virginia Cities Launch Coordinated Casino Legalization Push

Three Virginia cities are striving to bring casino gambling to the state in a bid to secure revenue amid financial struggles

A third city is on track to join a coordinated effort to persuade the government of Virginia to legalize casino gambling after Bristol and Portsmouth each passed earlier this year a resolution on the matter.

Members of the Danville City Council are gearing up to pass a similar resolution over the next few days, it has emerged.

Casino gambling is currently illegal in Virginia. What is more, the Legislature has quenched any attempt to bring casinos or any other form of gambling to the state for decades. However, lawmakers showed earlier this year signs that their stance might be softening by allowing historical horse race betting.

Bristol developers have pitched a $150-million plan for a casino resort at the vacated Bristol Mall, promising new jobs and revenue for the region and the state. The Bristol City Council passed a resolution supporting the casino scheme in September. City Council members said back then that the materialization of the project could provide the city and the region with a much-needed economic boost.

Commenting on the matter, City Manager Randy Eads has said that Bristol needs the opportunity to improve its financial situation sooner rather than later as its debt load “is getting ready to increase dramatically over the next several years” and the revenue generated from the casino resort “will help alleviate financial issues” related to an increase in the city’s debt load.

Casino Bill in the Works

With support from Bristol, two Virginia lawmakers have begun work on a bill that would allow city residents to vote on the potential construction of a casino in a referendum. Sen. Bill Carrico and Del. Israel O’Quinn are planning to introduce the piece during the 2019 legislative session of the General Assembly.

According to Mr. Eads, there will be little opposition to the casino effort if and after it passes all the hurdles in the Legislature. However, that might not be the case exactly as a Bristol family organization has already launched an effort to prevent the opening of a casino resort in the city, arguing that an establishment of this kind would only bring “addiction, poverty, higher crime, prostitution, sex trafficking, drugs, diminished poverty values, etc.

As mentioned earlier, Portsmouth City Council members, too, voiced their support for casino expansion within the state’s borders. In October, they passed a resolution similar to the one approved in Bristol.

Danville is now looking to come on board. Similarly to Bristol and Portsmouth, the city has been struggling with financial issues for years now. The loss of key industries has also resulted in a significant drop of population, an issue Bristol and Portsmouth have, too, faced. Officials from all three cities have pointed out that a casino in each of them could improve their economic situation swiftly and significantly.

With the upcoming introduction of the casino bill as well as of three sports betting bills, 2019 could be a landmark year for Virginia, during which the state could establish a regulated gambling industry.

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Manila Casino Resort Drops Balloon Release Event over Environmental Concerns

The sprawling casino resort has dumped plans to set a new Guinness world record on New Year’s Eve following complaints by green groups

Okada Manila has canceled plans to drop tens of thousands of balloons to celebrate the New Year, following criticism from green groups and a government department.

The glitzy hotel and casino resort located in the heart of the Philippine capital planned to set a new world record by dropping 120,000 balloons at its Cove Manila nightclub on New Year’s Eve. In a statement on Sunday, Okada Manila revealed that it has decided to call off the stunt and that its decision was prompted out of respect for environmental groups that have warned against the world record attempt.

The resort went on to explain that it also wanted to show support for the Philippine government’s campaign to save the environment. The property had initially maintained that the balloons it had planned to use had been biodegradable and that they would be recycled afterwards.

The stunt was dropped from Okada Manila’s New Year’s celebration schedule after a number of environmental groups voiced criticism and concerns about the event’s environmental impact. The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) joined environmentalists over the weekend, issuing a statement in which it pointed out that the balloon drop would generate tons of waste.

However, the government agency stressed on the fact that it did not have the authority to stop the event. In a statement from earlier today, DENR Chief Roy Cimatu lauded Okada Manila’s change of mind. The official also revealed that other resorts around the country have, too, dropped balloon release plans for New Year’s Eve.

How Will Okada Manila Welcome 2019?

Okada Manila informed its guests that minus the balloons drop, all its events for New Year’s Eve would proceed as planned. OPM Legends are set to perform live at the Grand Ballroom. The event is hosted by Janeena Chan and Nikko Ramos and features Okada Manila Entertainment Group, Hazel Faith, and Manila Sound Project.

There are also hourly fountain shows starting at 6 pm local time, live music at the Crystal Corridor, and The Fountain Fireworks Display to celebrate the arrival of 2019.

Cove Manila will host a New Year’s Eve countdown party featuring Pete Tong, Okada Manila Entertainment Group, and DJ performances. The party at the popular club will continue into the wee hours of January 1.

At The Coral Lounge, guests and visitors will be treated to finely crafted cocktails and live entertainment featuring Blast and Zcentido. The lounge will remain open until 2 am.

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Italy Rings in 2019 with Higher Gambling Taxes

Italy is ringing in the new year with fireworks, higher gambling taxes, and a fresh new blanket ban on gambling advertising

Italy is set to impose higher gambling taxes next year as part of the country’s newly passed budget, news emerged over the weekend. The new tax rates are taking effect tomorrow, January 1, or the same day that will see the implementation of a highly criticized blanket ban on gambling ads.

Following a deal with the European Commission, Italy’s populist government passed the country’s budget at the eleventh hour this past Saturday. Brussels had previously rejected the original draft of the budget that aimed to cut the country’s deficit to 2.4% of GDP, but approved a re-drafted piece that set a 2.04% target.

The budget overcame one final hurdle this weekend when it swept through the Parliament, comfortably winning a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies.

Among other things, the new budget will impose higher taxes on gambling companies licensed to operate in the country. Starting tomorrow, online casino operators will be taxed at 25% on gross gambling revenue, up from 20%. Italian lawmakers believe the move will generate an additional of €50 million for the nation’s coffers.

Online sports betting operations will pay a 24% tax on revenue, up from the current rate of 22%. Retail betting operators will be taxed at 20%. They currently contribute 18% of their revenue. The increase in betting tax rates is expected to create additional revenue of €30 million a year.

Utmost Concern

Italy’s gambling sector has expressed the “utmost concern” about the impact of the new tax rates, arguing that those will only give a competitive advantage to unlicensed casino and betting operators.

In an interview with local news outlet Agimeg, Moreno Marasco, President of Logico, the trade body representing Italy-licensed online gambling companies, said earlier this month that the country’s regulated sector was particularly vulnerable, as it could easily be overshadowed by black market operations that did not shy away from circumventing rules and prohibitions.

According to Mr. Marasco, the new, higher, tax rates will not bring additional revenue, despite the government’s projections. In fact, Italy could even lose part of its guaranteed tax revenue as the tax hike would affect the ability of licensed operators to capture customers by providing them with more attractive offers.

As mentioned earlier, a ban on all forms of gambling advertising will, too, take effect tomorrow. The ban was spearheaded by Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio, who has established himself as one of the real powers behind Italy’s populist government, and swiftly passed through all legislative hurdles this past summer, despite heavy criticism from operators and other stakeholders.

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