Macau’s gaming regulator is proposing the introduction of rules banning Macau-based gaming workers from casino floors outside work hours. It says the move aims to curb problem gambling among casino employees, particularly card dealers.
The terms of the initiative from Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – also known by its Portuguese acronym DICJ – were announced during a Tuesday press conference (pictured). 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.
The proposal states 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 ban also covers slot parlours.
Local players’ contribution to Macau casino gross gaming revenue is estimated by investment analysts as being small when judged in percentage terms.
The gaming regulator will now conduct a one-month public consultation on the ban proposal starting from Wednesday (September 27). The liaison effort will also cover the issue of any underage people that might be detected on casino floors in the city’s casinos: patrons must be 21 or over to enter the gaming zones. Also up for discussion is how to handle any situation where a person already barred from entering Macau gaming facilities actually succeeds in winning money at tables or slots, but is subsequently identified as a banned individual.
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 gaming operators already have contractual bans on their own staff gambling on company premises.
DICJ’s new proposal envisages Macau-based casino workers being allowed to gamble in casinos the first three days of the Chinese New Year holiday period.
Representatives from DICJ had said in May 2016 that the local authorities were mulling rules banning gaming workers from being on casino floors outside work hours. At the time, two Macau gaming labour groups said they supported the measure.
In a Tuesday press release, DICJ noted that – according to Macau’s “Central Registry System of Individuals with Gambling Disorder” – the majority of the Macau-employed people seeking government help were either “casino dealers” or “gaming sector workers”. The latest available data indicate 13.60 percent of the Macau-employed people registered in that database in 2016 were “casino dealers”; and an additional 10.04 percent were “gaming sector workers”.
DICJ admitted in a document related to the public consultation that the incidence of gaming workers with gambling behaviour designated as problematic “could potentially be much more serious” than was indicated by the centralised registry data, as the latter recorded only self-reported cases.
The casino regulator is also proposing streamlined proceedings to handle instances where those under 21 are detected on the city’s casino floors. DICJ stated that was because most people detected breaching the rule were tourists; the introduction of simplified proceedings would make handling of such cases more efficient and reduce related costs, it said.
Procedures currently are often only concluded after the suspected wrongdoer has left Macau, meaning the person has to be contacted in their home jurisdiction via post, DICJ said. The regulator admitted contacting suspects living outside of Macau was expensive, time consuming and often hard.
The DICJ proposal states its inspectors could – once someone under the age of 21 is detected inside a local casino – immediately fine that person. In such a case, the person – if admitting wrongdoing – would be liable to a fine of MOP1,000, to be paid voluntarily within 15 days. In the event of a repeated infringement, the streamlined proceedings would not be applicable.
Macau increased the minimum age for entry to casinos from 18 to 21 with effect from November 2012. The move was described at the time as designed mainly to protect locals and encourage Macau young people to stay on in education rather than to become casino dealers straight from high school. Only Macau ID holders can be employed as dealers in the city’s casinos.
The age entry rules state that any person under 21 that enters, works or gambles in a casino is liable to a fine of between MOP1,000 and MOP10,000. A casino operator allowing any person under 21 to enter, work or gamble in a casino is liable to a fine of between MOP10,000 and MOP500,000.
DICJ’s latest proposed update to regulation additionally clarifies that the local authorities can seize any wager or set of casino winnings possessed by people barred from entering gaming floors – once they have been detected as persons in breach of that existing ban. Under the proposal, the seized wagers or casino winnings would be temporarily deposited with the relevant casino’s cage staff until related legal proceedings were completed.
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"We have estimated that on average, the [daily] visitor arrivals for this year’s Chinese New Year break could turn out to be a bit weaker than for the Christmas holiday period"
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes
Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office