Winnings paid to mother of under-age gambler

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 February, 2007, 12:00am
 

Macau's Sands Casino yesterday paid out HK$740,000 in winnings to the mother of a 16-year-old Hong Kong girl who hit the jackpot after entering the casino illegally on Tuesday.


The casino said it was 'always prepared to pay the amount of the prize', adding that the money would have gone to charity if no one had been entitled to it.


'Sands Macau accepts that a person who was under age gained access to the casino in the company of a parent on the third day of the Chinese New Year,' it said in a statement.


'Sands Macau ... would have paid it to a legally entitled person, or if no person was entitled, to charity, or in any way as directed by the regulator.'


The girl was playing at Sands with her mother and grandmother when, after putting HK$100 into a slot machine, it stopped on the grand prize-winning numbers.


Casino workers rushed up to congratulate her on winning HK$740,000, but showed her to the door after discovering her age.


The city's gaming watchdog, the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau (DICJ), ruled on Friday that the Sands should pay out the prize to the mother but not the teenager.


The casino said it had 'fully complied with that direction'.


'Sands Macau sought guidance from DICJ as to the proper legal position as to entitlement to the prize in this exceptional circumstance,' the statement said. The only gaming legislation relating to minors merely states that anyone under 18 is not allowed inside a casino.


The law does not say what should be done after they enter a casino, play and win. Bureau officials said on Friday that Macau's gaming laws would be changed to make sure the situation did not reoccur.


Legislator Jose Coutinho said the laws had to be drafted as soon as possible to fix the loophole.


He said he was puzzled that the city's pre-handover gaming legislation had spelt out fixed fines for letting in under-age gamblers, but that the detailed punishments were scrapped in 2001 when a new law was enacted.


The lawmaker urged Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah to activate the Gaming Committee, which is responsible for studying the development of the industry and making policies. But the committee, chaired by the chief executive, is inactive, with most of its members yet to be appointed.


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