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Off-duty casino entry ban approved by Macau’s legislators

Fri, Dec 21, 2:23pm by Staff Writer

The Macau Legislative Assembly on Tuesday approved a government-backed bill proposing a ban on the city’s gaming workers entering casino floors outside work hours.

The ban is expected to cover a total of 54,000 Macau casino employees and should only come into effect in late December 2019 at the earliest.

The reason for this is that the bill offers a 12 month grace period, which commences from the moment is published the city’s Official Gazette – in order for workers to adapt to the new restrictions.

All Macao legislators voted in favour of the proposed bill in Tuesday’s final vote in a result similar to that of the bill’s first-reading vote in July 2018.

Several legislators questioned how the new rules would be enforced during the bill’s final reading, according to GGR Asia.

DICJ to be responsible for implementing gaming works casino ban

The new legislation tasks the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, also known by its Portuguese acronym DICJ – with implementing the ban on the city’s gaming workers entering casino floors outside work hours.

The DICJ would be responsible for deploying inspectors inside casinos to detect potential infractions, namely with support from casino operators. The government would also set up a hotline for reporting of potential infringements.

However, the bill does not envision a database with details on all casino workers covered by the ban to be established.

Several legislators have questioned the DICJ’s capacity to manage casino ban

Several legislators – including Angela Leong On Kei, who also serves as executive director at casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd – questioned an alleged lack of DICJ resources to implement the casino entry ban. Some also noted that the casino regulator was already facing a shortage of human resources.

Both the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, and the head of DICJ, Paulo Martins Chan – whilst attending the bill’s final reading debate – tried to ease those in attendance on the questions posed with the implementation of the casino entry ban. However, they both appeared to provide little detail on how the new rules would be enforced.

Mr Chan said the government would focus on promoting awareness of the casino entry ban during the 12 month grace period and that infractors didn’t risk losing their jobs.

According to the approved bill, some staff hired by the casino operators and not directly involved with gaming operations – including food and beverage outlet workers and cleaners are also included in the ban, alongside gaming workers.

The new legislation states that Macau casino workers are allowed to enter and gamble in local casinos only on the first three days of the annual Chinese New Year holiday period.

Casino workers will also be permitted to step onto gaming floors outside work hours should their presence be related to professional training or education.

According to the Macau News Agency, Assembly member José Pereira Coutinho said it was uncertain how the legislation would affect VIP rooms, which he said were regulated differently by gaming promoters. In addition, there may also be confusion with how to handle satellite casinos whose operators may be under a different legal status.

The government had previously said that the intention of the bill was to curb problem gambling among casino employees, in particular card dealers.

According to official data, the majority of people seeking help in Macau between 2011 and 2017 for problem gaming-related issues were workers at casinos. They are said to constitute 30% of those who seek government assistance with gambling issues.

Under the new regulations, those caught violating the casino ban will be fined between 1,000-10,000 Macanese Pataca ($174-$1,741 AUD).

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