Macau’s Legislative Assembly unanimously approved on Thursday – in a first-reading session – a government-backed bill proposing a ban on Macau-based gaming workers entering casino floors outside work hours. But a number of lawmakers questioned how the measure could be efficiently implemented.
The bill will now be assigned to one of three working committees of the Legislative Assembly for detailed examination. After the committee has issued a report on the bill, the document returns to the full assembly for its second and final reading. The overall process can take several months to conclude.
The government says the casino floor ban aims to curb problem gambling among casino employees, particularly card dealers.
Enforcement of the mooted ban on Macau casino employees entering any local gaming floor outside work hours was questioned by lawmaker Angela Leong On Kei during the Legislative Assembly meeting. Ms Leong is also co-chairperson of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd.
“There are many challenges regarding enforcement of this bill,” Ms Leong noted. “For instance, how can a casino operator know a person works for a different casino operator? And how can casino operators ensure the confidentiality of personal data of their staff?” she asked the government representatives attending the meeting.
The head of the local gaming regulator, Paulo Martins Chan, who attended the meeting, did not provide much detail on enforcement of the proposed ban. He stated that the regulator would set up a hotline for reporting of potential infringements. Mr Chan also stressed the ban had an important educational component regarding gambling behaviour among casino workers.
The regulator told GGRAsia last month that enforcement of the ban would be the responsibility of casino operators via monitoring by their security staff, rather than via use of “technological measures” – at least at first.
In Macau, people are not required to produce an ID document to gain access to casino floors. But they should carry one with them and be willing to show it to casino security staff or representatives of the Macau authorities if requested to do so, depending on the particular situation.
Some Macau casino workers not directly involved with gaming operations – including cage staff, food and beverage outlet workers, cleaners and those connected to surveillance operations – are to also be included in the casino floor ban, according to the bill. The government proposes that the ban become effective one year after the approved bill is published in the city’s Official Gazette.
During Thursday’s Legislative Assembly session, lawmaker Sulu Sou suggested the ban should be revised to cover all Macau population. But the casino regulator head stated that too stringent measures could prompt “unforeseen issues”.
Local players’ contribution to Macau casino gross gaming revenue is estimated by investment analysts as small when judged in percentage terms. Macau gaming operators already have contractual bans on their own staff gambling on company premises.
Macau had in total 57,207 people employed in the gaming sector by the fourth quarter of 2017, according to latest available data from the city’s Statistics and Census Service. In the period, there were 24,453 table games dealers working in the city’s casinos, the official data showed.
The Macau government bill proposes that any designated casino worker detected in a local casino outside working hours would be liable to a fine of between MOP1,000 (US$125) and MOP10,000.
The city’s civil servants are already banned by dint of their professional role, from entering casino floors. The exception is a brief period during the Chinese New Year holiday season. Macau casino workers will have a similar exemption from the restrictions of the new law during Chinese New Year.
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China