Casino employees in Macau “have been subject to different degrees of exploitation,” said on Thursday a leading Hong Kong academic, adding that the psychological pressure on these employees should not be underestimated.
Professor Sonny Lo Shiu Hing (pictured), from the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said casino floor workers are becoming more vocal and active in protecting their rights, including lobbying operators for more benefits. He said the pay and promotion policies of the industry should be more transparent.
Mr Lo was speaking at the International Conference on Gaming, Leisure and Entertainment 2014 held at Macao Polytechnic Institute.
“The activism of dealers in articulating their interests is a healthy sign,” Mr Lo said.
“Because of the rapid expansion of the casino industry and of the number of tables, the workload, psychological pressure and physical demand have increased rapidly,” he added.
The scholar said the long working hours, the poor ventilation of casinos and the unpredictable demands of patrons have been named to explain the growing pressure faced by casino employees.
Some of the dealers are also demanding operators to use fewer “long gambling tables”, said Mr Lo.
“From my preliminary research, a few casino dealers expressed the view that there are too many long tables” and not enough manpower to staff them, the scholar said. “If there are too many of these tables, there will be added pressure for both the dealers and supervisors,” he added.
Nine players are normally seated at a baccarat table, the city’s most popular casino game. Casinos in Macau have tried to find ways to increase the number of baccarat players they can accommodate per table due to the current cap on gaming table numbers.
The Macau government has imposed a cap that seeks to limit the growth of live dealer tables to 3-percent compound annual growth until end-2022.
Some casino operators in Macau use normal baccarat tables with two boards, also known as Siamese tables, which can seat up to double the number of players accommodated at a typical baccarat table.
Sands China Ltd in 2012 introduced the Fast Action Baccarat table with 28 betting positions, allowing up to 60 standing gamblers. Each Fast Action Baccarat table counts as one live gaming table under the government’s cap and requires a minimum of three dealers.
The rapid expansion of the industry is adding pressure on casino floor workers, said Mr Lo. Demonstrations from gaming industry workers have obliged operators to become more transparent regarding their practices, “as employers now interact more with employees”.
“We’ve already seen that casino operators react to workers’ demands quickly,” the scholar said, adding that it doesn’t mean that all requests are reasonable.
A way to tone down these protests would be for operators to implement more transparent pay and promotion policies, he said. Mr Lo argued that a general basic standard policy for the whole industry – not meaning the same pay scale – could benefit operators and make the rules clear for employees.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China