Regulator proposes new limits on casino access

The government, through the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), is proposing changes to the law that limit access to casinos. Director of the DICJ, Paulo Martins Chan, presented the proposal yesterday in a press conference, highlighting three major aspects where changes take place.

During the presentation speech, Chan said, “we found out that the current law has flaws and we also think that now is the right time to proceed with a revision [of the law approved in 2012].”

Focusing on the three main points of the revision, Chan said that the proposal aims to add protection to the gaming industry’s frontline workers against gambling addictions, simplify the sanctioning procedures for gamblers under the legal age of 21, and introduce a new mechanism that prevents both casinos and illegal gamblers from profiting from the illegal activity. The overarching aim is to create “more responsible gaming.”

“We want the gaming [industry] to have a less negative influence on society,” the director of DICJ noted.

Regarding the first aim, Chan said, “the current law does not protect the workers of this field, taking note of the special situation of their job,” adding, “we know that many frontline workers, in result of their work experience and dealing with the games, they think they have a better condition ‘and know the tricks’ to win in the casino games.” This situation often leads to gaming addictions, according to the reports of the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS).

In that sense, the proposal aims to establish limitations to all “frontline” casino workers by preventing them from entering the gaming floors when they are not on duty. An exception is made for the first three days of the Chinese New Year, in a system similar to that which is in force for local civil servants.

In the event of a breach, the proposal establishes a penalty of a fine ranging between MOP1,000 to MOP10,000.

On the definition of “frontline casino worker,” Chan said that the document clearly establishes which professionals are and are not included in such rules, noting that the criteria was based on “the proximity and contact with the gaming tables.”

Professionals who are proposed to be covered by the new rules include the croupiers, pit managers, casino tellers, dealers, public relations staff and other groups that come into direct contact with gaming tables and gaming floors. Excluded from the rules are administration staff, food and beverage employees, as well as security staff and show performers.

As for the new prohibition of people under the age of 21 into casinos, DICJ’s chief noted that the current law leads to complex and time-consuming processes in which the offenders are, in the large majority of cases, tourists. “It is often hard to notify these people after they leave the region as sometimes they give a fake or incomplete address. Most of time, it is not possible to apply any penalty which makes all the processes ineffective,” he said.

Under the proposed change, DICJ inspectors can immediately punish underage casino attendees with a fine of MOP1,000, to be paid within 15 days.

After payment, the sanction procedure would immediately end.

Related to the first two rules is a final procedure to govern gambling earnings won by illegal players who are either underage or prohibited from playing. Under the current law, illegal earnings should be deposited in a casino treasury account with the cooperation of the player.

In the proposed alteration, not only it is “demanded” that the player delivers all his earnings, but the casino is also prevented from keeping any earnings from such players.

“The casinos also need to give back the earning resulting from losses from these players; they can’t keep any profits either,” explained Chan. All chips and others benefits from illegal gaming will revert in favor of the MSAR.

The proposal, from today enters into public consultation for a period of 30 days (until October 26), and is expected to reach its final stage. It is expected to be delivered to the Legislative Assembly (AL) by the start of 2018, said Chan. However, he noted that, “the time that will be needed for its discussion and approval within the AL is out of our control,” but, “we hope that can be as short as possible.”

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