Macau to change gaming laws after minor's gamble costs Sands HK$740,000 Macau's gaming watchdog ruled yesterday that Sands Casino must pay the HK$740,000 slot-machine winnings of a 16-year-old Hong Kong girl to the teenager's mother - even though the girl broke the law. But officials are making sure the situation doesn't happen again by changing Macau's gaming laws. 'We had no choice. It is the law that the casino must pay the winnings,' Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau director Manuel Joaquim das Neves said. 'This is a contract between the casino and the player. In technical legal terms, our legal adviser said that according to Macau law, the contract is valid. We have decided that the money must be paid, not to the child, but to her mother.' The bureau will also temporarily ban the mother from entering any casino in Macau as punishment for taking a minor into gaming premises. Bureau officials came to their decision yesterday after meeting the mother and daughter, who told them the teenager had been given money by her grandmother to play the slot machines. The girl was playing at Sands with her mother and grandmother on Tuesday when, after putting HK$100 into a machine, it stopped on the grand-prize-winning numbers. Casino staff refused to pay out the winnings after checking the girl's ID and discovering she was under age. 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 if they gain entry to a casino, play and win. The bureau will now add clauses to legislative amendments currently being drafted, stipulating what action should be taken when minors win money in casinos. Mr das Neves said it was likely the new laws, which are expected to come into force this year, would state that minors or other people banned from casinos who won money would not be paid any cash winnings. Instead, the money would go to charity or be given to the government, which would decide how it would be spent, Mr das Neves said. Sands Casino, which made no comment on the bureau's ruling last night, now has the option to appeal against the decision to the economy and finance minister, and then to the chief executive. If both uphold the bureau's ruling, the casino can then turn to the courts to overrule the decision. Since the gaming market was liberalised in 2002, Macau has been amending its gaming-control laws. Previously, under the monopoly, there was no need to write laws to regulate one company - the government simply added clauses to its contract with Stanley Ho Hung-sun. Now, eight organisations have contracts with the Macau government to operate gambling outlets. Political commentator Larry So Man-yum said the existing loophole in the law meant that legislation had to be amended to clarify how casinos should deal with similar cases in future, as they were likely to occur as the gaming industry grew in the city. 'We've a history of gambling in Macau for decades. You may ask why there were no regulations governing cases like this before, but people will just shrug their shoulders and say, 'It is Macau, and anything goes in Macau',' Mr So said. He added that casinos would have to address the issue of minors entering the premises by providing better training for staff and checking the identities of anyone they suspect may be under age.