Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac (pictured in a file photo), said on Wednesday that the local government would maintain its policy of allowing only locals – namely those with Macau ID – to be table games dealers in the city’s casinos.
The official spoke on the sidelines of an event. He had been asked by local reporters to comment on an opinion raised on Tuesday by a member of the city’s Council for Economic Development at a closed-doors meeting. The council – formed of scholars and business people from various sectors – is an advisory body to the local government on the city’s economic issues.
GGRAsia contacted one of those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting to ask who had made the suggestion regarding possibly using non-locals for casino table dealing jobs, but the person approached declined to say.
In any case, it had been reported on Tuesday by public broadcaster TDM that a voice at the meeting had suggested casino operators could be allowed to employ imported labour as dealers under certain conditions, including imposition of an import quota.
It is not the first time such an idea has been floated. Some commentators on Macau social affairs have suggested that the locals-only policy for table games dealers – while producing a certain number of middle-income jobs reserved for local people – actually creates a glass ceiling that can hinder upward mobility in professional terms.
The city’s current leader, Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On, had said in 2014 during his successful lobbying effort for a second term in the post that he would maintain the prohibition on gaming operators importing workers for dealer positions.
Mr Leong is touted locally as a possible successor to Mr Chui as chief executive when the latter’s second and final term ends in December next year, although no candidacies have been declared.
Mr Chui and Mr Leong attended Tuesday’s Council for Economic Development meeting.
Mr Leong said in his Wednesday comments: “…I have to reiterate here that just as the Chief Executive has stressed several times before on different occasions, the MSAR [Macau Special Administrative Region] Government is always maintaining its policy not to have imported labour to work as dealers. This position has not changed.”
He gave the same response when a reporter asked whether the local government’s policy regarding dealer jobs would be altered during the next administration, although it would be up to whoever is in office at that time to outline policy on the matter.
Mr Leong additionally remarked on Wednesday: “…for the local resident workers that are employed in this [gaming] industry, they will be trained…so that their upward mobility in the career path can be enhanced. As you know, the proportion of local residents working in mid- and senior-level management [in gaming industry] has already been increasing. So these efforts will continue.”
Vong Kok Seng, leader of a human resource studies group on the Council for Economic Development, confirmed to GGRAsia that neither Mr Chui nor Mr Leong had commented at the time, when a person at Tuesday’s meeting had mentioned it might be beneficial to the economy to have imported labour working as dealers.
“That committee member suggested that the casino operators could be allowed to employ imported workers as dealers under a stipulated percentage [quota]. And when adverse economic conditions hit and the firms have to cut staff, this [imported] labour could be laid off first,” Mr Vong said.
“The rationale for that committee member’s suggestion is: a disadvantage seen with maintaining dealer jobs for locals is that this policy further shrinks the available pool of local workers that can potentially take up other types of jobs in the city. And this does not go so well with the policy aim of diversifying local economic activities,” Mr Vong noted to GGRAsia.
China’s central government has made Macau’s economic diversification away from high-stakes casino gambling a policy aim at national and local level.
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