AL Plenary | Law banning casino staff from betting approved

Lionel Leong (center) said that casino workers are the majority of problem gamblers

law banning gaming sector employees from entering casinos during non- working hours was passed by the Legislative Assembly (AL) yesterday.

The law proposed the inclusion of a provision prohibiting entry into casinos, in particular, the prohibition on entry of employees of concessionaires and sub-concessionaires into casinos.

These employees are those who work at gaming tables, gaming machines, cashiers, those who work in public relations, cleaning and security, and those who are in charge of the supervision of casinos.

Exemption only will be given during the first three days of the Chinese New Year, and under conditions for which relevant people can provide a justified reason, for example, with the purpose of training or participating in associative activities.

Currently, there are 56,634 employees in the gaming sector. Lionel Leong, Secretary for Economy and Finance, said that gaming employees represent the highest percentage of pathological gamblers.

Approximately 10 lawmakers voiced their concerns regarding the equality and implementation of the law, among other topics.

In Au Kam San’s opinion, even though gaming employees represent the majority of pathological gamblers, they should still be allowed to enter casinos freely, although they should not be allowed to gamble.

Au also thinks that the law does not define which parties can enter the casinos clearly.

Leong Sun Iok said that “it might not be helpful for those who are already pathological gamblers. The government should enhance education next to the public. Gaming operators should bear more responsibility.” He also asked if the government had already given information of all civil servants to the casinos.

Sulu Sou suggested further restrictions should be applied to all Macau residents regarding access to casinos, such as applying an entry levy for local residents.

Statistics show that somewhere around 70 percent of residents agree that casino employees should be banned from entering casinos off-duty.

Agnes Lam pointed out that those who are against the law thought they would be misunderstood by the society who might consider them to be pathological gamblers.

She also asked whether punishing banned parties will affect their careers.

Lam also hopes the government can support research into females’ gambling behaviors, as in recent years, many women have become pathological gamblers.

Si Ka Lon voiced that he hopes “the government can ensure that the related regulation will not contradict residents’ civil rights, and that the law should not create disputes regarding equity.”

Angela Leong recommended to the government, in light of the law, on enhancing the education of and mental consultation to gaming employees.

She also said that “many workers think [the law] is not fair for them because they have been labeled.”

Leong, replying to all lawmakers, said that “civil servants accept this arrangement and understand that it is protecting them. For the casino employees, the reason is the same. We should do better in terms of educating casino employees. We hope to protect Macau residents and casino workers and therefore reduce the number of residents who become pathological gamblers.”

Regarding restricting all Macau residents from entering casinos, Leong noted that “we cannot predict [a positive] effect [if Macau restricts its residents from entering casinos]. [We do not know] if a consensus can be reached within society.”

The Secretary also claimed that the government did not provide civil servants’ information to casinos.

Paulo Martins Chan, director of Gaming Inspection and Coordination, also remarked that the gaming watchdog would establish a reporting system to record instances of casino employees who entered the casinos.

Motion to discuss crematorium refuted

THE LEGISLATIVE Assembly has voted down two motions proposed by Agnes Lam, Sulu Sou and Pereira Coutinho. The three lawmakers wanted the plenary to debate Macau’s future burials projects. Lam proposed to debate the region’s future crematorium projects, and Sou and Coutinho proposed to promote green burials in Macau. Several lawmakers, including Ma Chi Cheng, said that these issues are better to be referred to other government departments.

On the lawmakers’ agenda

CIVIL LIBERTIES “The SAR government has become accustomed to using public security as a reason to extend the power of control of the police authorities,” Sulu Sou said. The lawmaker suggested that the Macau government should make improvements to the city’s demonstration and assembly law. “For instance, adjusting the notice regarding the government authority’s restriction, and adjusting the period for appeal. […] Changing the advance notice from working days to calendar days; amending, in accordance with the TUI ruling, the number of initiators from three people to one person to ensure that any individual can execute their […] basic rights on any day,” said Sou.

GAMING CONCESSIONS Ella Lei has urged the government to listen to the public’s opinion regarding the requirement for gaming concessions tenders. “We are less than two years away until some gaming licenses expire, yet the government authority has not revealed relevant information, which has only given rise to conjectures of different parties but also concerns of the public about genuine inclusion in clauses of the requirements for the gaming casinos, such as how […] gaming operators can ensure that their investment in the city will benefit Macau’s development,” said Lei.

PUBLIC AUCTION OF LAND Pereira Coutinho has questioned whether the government should proceed with the public sale of the available land. “One of the few solutions to increase housing supply would be to provide public land available for housing projects. […] The government should have the courage to eliminate the various stages of administrative procedures of the current bureaucratic and painful process in the approval of construction, as well as the allocation of land for housing projects for civil servants,” said Coutinho, adding that “carrying out public auctions for available public lands with appropriate prices, along with some restrictions for avoiding land speculation, will be a solution for buyers.” 

Marine management law motion passed

A motion concerning the management of the marine area was passed at the AL yesterday, with several lawmakers voicing their concerns regarding sea protection and the sea tenure.

Sulu Sou highlighted that the city’s marine authority had once noted that it had sent out three teams to clean trash left in the sea, although the authority never managed to clean all the trash.

“Can the government promise that it will put sea environment protection as a priority when it [conducts the] marine development in the future?” Sou questioned.

Sonia Chan, Secretary for Administration and Justice, replied to Sou by saying “the SAR government will make a marine development plan, and it will include protection of sea environment, since protecting the sea environment is a principle we follow [so that Macau can] avoid sea pollution caused by over-usage and over-exploitation. […] Sea environment is an important job of our works.”

Sulu Sou and Au Kam San also suggested that there should be open tenders regarding the outsource of the sea area to any parties wishing to use the waters.

Sonia Chan noted that, currently, there are approximately 50 laws related to marine topics that are being implemented.

“We will come up with other laws to complement the marine management law. Regarding the law concerning the usage of the sea waters, we [the government] are still drafting it,” informed Chan, who also noted that if there will be reclamations, and if they are approved by the Central Government, then the government will handle all relevant projects according to the city’s land law.

The law regarding the sea area’s usage will be delivered to AL once it is ready, according to Chan.

In addition, Chan’s departments are also making mid-term and long term plans regarding Macau’s sea usage.

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