Two Macau gaming labour groups have expressed concerns to GGRAsia regarding the likely effectiveness of a proposed bill to ban the staff of the city’s casinos from all local gaming floors outside work hours so as to curb problem gambling among them.
The doubts came from Power of the Macao Gaming Association and Professional for Gaming of New Macau. The latest version of the bill – which amounts to an amendment of existing law – was announced on Friday by the city’s Executive Council, and will be sent to the Legislative Assembly to be voted upon.
The Macau government proposes that any designated casino worker detected on a local casino’s gaming floor outside working hours would be liable to a fine of between MOP1,000 (US$125) and MOP10,000. Some staff not directly involved with gaming operations – including cage staff, food and beverage outlet workers, cleaners and those connected to surveillance operations – will also be included in the ban.
“The range of the fine is not that much of a deterrent, especially to people that really have gaming addiction problems,” president of Power of the Macao Gaming Association, Stephen Lao Ka Weng, told us. Mr Lao’s association – one of the local gaming labour groups that supported the initiative of the proposed casino entry ban to casino workers – says it had a meeting with Paulo Martins Chan, the director of the city’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, on the topic, and came away concerned about whether the measure could be effectively enforced.
“From what we understood from Mr Chan, basically the enforcement of the bill just relies on three conditions: the casino floor staff that keep watch at the entrance; the inspectors of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau; and the self-discipline of the workers themselves,” Mr Lao said.
According to figures mentioned in March by Macau’s Social Affairs Bureau, of 157 requests for assistance in 2017 regarding problem gambling, approximately 30 percent of cases involved casino employees.
Mr Lao of Power of the Macao Gaming Association told us: “At least the bill marked a good start for curbing problem gambling issues, especially among the younger people that are fresh to the industry… In general I still support the bill – I think it is good for Macau.”
Lei Man Chao, deputy director of Professional for Gaming of New Macau, remarked that the government-proposed bill “carried good intentions”; but he was doubtful of how effective the proposed measures could be in helping prevent problem gambling among casino employees.
The government’s bill envisages Macau casino workers being allowed to gamble in local casinos only on the first three days of the Chinese New Year holiday period. Such a restriction is similar to a rule applied to the city’s civil servants, who are only allowed to enter casino floors during the brief period of the Chinese New Year holiday.
“The government did it [the proposed bill] in such a way that the casino employees are just being treated like civil servants, though they don’t enjoy the same rights,” Mr Lei remarked, understood to be a reference to the terms and conditions of employment for civil servants.
He added that the government ought to consider imposing a casino entry levy on Macau residents as a way of amending the casino entry rules. But following a public consultation on Macau casino entry regulation, the local gaming regulator had already ruled out such an idea. It said entry restrictions affecting locals should only be “targeted at high-risk groups” that are most likely affected by problem gambling issues. Only holders of Macau ID can be dealers in the city’s casinos.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings