Macau | First draft for casino workers gaming ban bill passed, doubts raised on practical application

A first draft for a new bill barring gaming workers from entering casino floors outside work hours was approved today by the Legislative Assembly, however legislators questioned its practical application and possible infringement to residents fundamental rights

Macau (MNA) – The Legislative Assembly (AL) unanimously approved the draft for a new casino workers gaming ban bill, however legislators expressed concerns over possible impact on workers rights or the practicality of enforcing the regulations.

Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong Vai Tac, reiterated during today’s debate at the AL that in the five years since the first regulations on casino entry were enacted in 2012, data from the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) showed that gaming workers and card dealers represented the highest percentage of people with gaming addiction issues.

Initially only barring gaming tables and machine workers, the proposed ban added workers who perform functions less directly connected to gaming such as in the cashier’s offices, public relations areas, restoration, cleaning and security in casinos.

According to the DICJ director, Paulo Martins Chan, the scope of the ban was increased after the gaming industry was consulted.

The only exception would be for the first three days of the Lunar New Year and in situations justified for entry to the casinos, such as training or associative activities.

The proposed regulations also establish a possible fine of between MOP1,000 (US$125) and MOP10,000 for workers caught infringing the law.

Some legislators considered that the law could breach fundamental rights of local residents with legislator Si Ka Lon stating that if workers have to make a request to the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau (DICJ) to enter gaming areas for social reasons this “could go against the Basic Law”,

“It’ an unequal treatment and the government needs to explain better its reasoning[…] I would like to debate this issues at committee level,” he added.

Legislator and Chairman of the Association of Macau Restaurant and Beverage Establishments,Chan Chak Mo,  considered that if casino workers are not allowed to even enter restaurants inside casino areas this would impact the restaurants business.

However several concerns by legislators pertained to the practical application of the regulations, with legislators considering at the moment vetting systems in casinos have many deficiencies and that there would be the need to implement advanced identification technology to enforce the ban.

“People under 21-years-old are currently not allowed enter but many guards only look at the peoples faces and make their assessment if the person has more than 21 years, if only with current procedures are used there will be problems in efficiently enforcing the law,” legislator Zheng Anting said.

The legislator then suggested that ID checks be implemented in gaming areas or that Big Data technology is used to collect information on the people barred of entering, although admitting too much vetting could turn away people from casinos.

Legislator and gaming expert Davis Fong stated that maybe the Judiciary Police (PJ) and DICJ personnelle should be dispatched to assist casino security in enforcing the regulations, with gaming operators having to share information on their workers so that authorities can identify them.

Addressing these issues, Secretary Leong said that the law was proposed “for the workers wellbeing” and to avoid an increase in gaming addiction and that application issues would be “better discussed in the future”.

On the line

Other legislators considered that gaming workers employment could also be in risk, if gaming operators decided to laid them off if workers were fined for entering gaming areas, with legislator Sulu Sou Ka Hou questioning if the government could guarantee that workers won’t lose their employment.

Legislator Jose Pereira Coutinho also stated that he had knowledge of several cases where workers were fired for small mistakes, with other gaming operators refusing to employ the fired worker

“Operators have their own internal procedures that are very rigorous and from what I’m told by workers they are treated like machines and even if they don’t distribute cards the right way they can be penalised,” he added.

However Secretary Leong considered that the issue was outside the scope of the law as it pertained to employer and employee relations.