Macau casino workers might not have a place to gamble after Tuesday. That’s when the Chinese gambling region’s Legislative Assembly will vote on a bill that would prevent any gaming employee from entering a casino during non-working hours.

On Tuesday, the government of Macau will vote on a bill that would ban the city’s casino workers from entering any Macau casino during non-working hours. (Image via Asian Gaming Brief)

The vote will come after a final discussion of the bill that was proposed in June.

The bill has the support of Macau’s government, which identified casino workers as the most likely demographic to develop a gambling addiction in a study published by the Macau Social Welfare Bureau. The proposal has the support of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (also known as the DICJ).

If the law passes, enforcing the new measure would fall into the hands of the DICJ, according to a GGRAsia report. A database of Macau workers to ensure enforcement will not be created, however, according to the report.

Instead, government inspectors would work on-site with casino operators to spot violators.

The only exemption in the bill that would allow for casino employees to enter casinos during non-working hours would occur during the first three days of the Chinese New Year.

The bill would also not go into full effect for a year after its passage, which legislators are referring to as a “grace period” so that workers can get used to the new restrictions. And it will apply to anyone working in a casino, not just those directly involved with floor games.

For Their Own Good?

The push to keep Macau’s 54,000 casino employees off the tables and away from gaming machines has been a swift one: the bill was first proposed in June and a first draft was passed unanimously the next month.

However, some legislators questioned how the government would go about enforcing the law, and others wondered if it constituted government overreach.

It’s an unequal treatment and the government needs to explain better its reasoning,” legislator Si Ka Lon said during a hearing of the bill.

Macau’s leadership says the proof is in the numbers.

Shortly after the first draft was passed, the DICJ released data that showed 233 people formally requested to be banned from casinos during the first six months of 2018 — a 30 percent increase from the prior year, according to the South China Morning Post.

A 2012 law was passed that allows the government to ban anyone from a casino for two years if they, or a close relative, make such a request, although that applies to anyone, not just casino workers, of course.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Government officials in Macau aren’t the only ones to correlate problem gambling with working in a casino.

A 2008 research study by Southern Cross University looked at gaming venues in Queensland, Australia and concluded that “gaming venue staff appear an at-risk group for developing gambling problems,” due to the environment they work in, accessibility to gambling, and the influence of gambling and marketing promotions.

That same year, Occupational Medicine published a study of South Korean casino employees and found that they “might be at greater risk for gambling and other mental health problems,” because of their exposure to gambling.

In 2009, researchers at the University of Waterloo studied casino workers in Ontario, Canada, and found that they are “fairly similar to casino employees elsewhere, in that Ontario casino employees gamble more frequently and exhibit more [problem gambling] than Ontario’s general population.”

However, both the Southern Cross and Waterloo studies also concluded that exposure to gambling and gambling addiction in the workplace can also dissuade employees from gambling.

Macau also isn’t the only government actively attempting to curb problem gambling within its borders.

In the United Kingdom, a tight limit on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) will be implemented in April. The issue was so contentious among British lawmakers that one resigned and others threatened an in-party mutiny over possibly delaying the implementation of the betting limits.

And it will apply to all gamblers, not just those who work in the industry.