Macau volunteer groups working with problem gamblers, and a local labour group have given a mixed reception to the gaming regulator’s proposal to ban local gaming workers from being on casino floors outside work hours.
Those that support the proposed rules reckon they could help curb problem gambling among casino employees. Two of the ‘pro’ opinions come from volunteer groups: “Gaming Employees Home”, an affiliate of the Macau Federation of Trade Unions and that aims to help casino workers with gambling issues; and the Macau Responsible Gaming Association.
“We did hear positive reviews from workers [on the proposed ban] because they have seen cases of their peers having their lives and families negatively impacted by gambling issues,” said Leong Sun Iok – president of Gaming Employees Home and a legislator-elect for the city’s Legislative Assembly, representing the Federation of Trade Unions – in comments to GGRAsia.
Billy Song Wai Kit, director of the Macau Responsible Gaming Association, commented to us that gaming employees – especially card dealers – were more prone than others to problem gambling. He said this view was based on the requests his group had received from the family members or friends of such people.
Macau’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – also known by its Portuguese-language acronym DICJ – started on Wednesday a one-month public consultation regarding the off-duty ban proposal.
The initiative states that any designated casino worker detected on the gaming floor of a local casino outside working hours would be liable to a fine of between MOP1,000 (US$125) and MOP10,000. The ban also covers slot parlours. Staff not directly involved with gaming operations – including administrative staff, food and beverage outlet workers and those connected to surveillance operations or entertainment – would be exempted from the ban.
But Cloee Chao, director of local gaming labour activist group Professional for Gaming of New Macau, told GGRAsia the proposed ban on gaming workers entering casino floors outside work hours was “too restrictive”.
“With what they [DICJ] propose, we would only be allowed to gamble in casinos during Chinese New Year,” Ms Chao stated. “Outside that period, we would not even be allowed to take our relatives or friends to enter gaming areas of casinos when they visit Macau. This rule is too restrictive,” she added.
DICJ’s proposal envisages Macau-based casino workers being allowed only to gamble in casinos on the first three days of the Chinese New Year holiday period. Macau gaming operators already have contractual bans on their own staff gambling on company premises.
“We appreciate the authorities’ initiative to protect gaming workers with the proposed rule, but we’d rather see a rule that restricts the gaming workers from gambling than from entering a casino,” Ms Chao added.
In the consultation document outlining the proposed ban, DICJ stated it would enforce it by various routes including authorising spot checks by its own staff; and via tip-offs from the gaming companies or from a third party. The gaming regulator has also cited difficulty in implementing the proposed ban if a restriction is only imposed on gambling activities rather than there being a total ban on off-duty gaming workers entering the city’s casino floors.
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”Ramp ups [of new Macau casinos] are taking a little bit longer. The market is somewhat volatile at the moment, but we continue to look at all the opportunities and are still very comfortable that things are starting to move ahead”
Chief executive of MGM China Holdings