More problem gamblers request bans from Macau’s casinos as gaming hub vows to tackle addiction

Move follows ban on off-duty employees going on casino floor but figures are still drop in ocean compared with overall visitor numbers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 11:23pm

Growing numbers of problem gamblers have asked to be banned from Macau casinos to cure their addiction, new data has revealed.

Figures released this week by the city’s Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau – better known by its Portuguese initials DICJ – revealed 233 people filed formal requests to be excluded from casinos in the first six months of this year, 54 more than in the same period of 2017.

The figures came after lawmakers in the world’s most cash-rich gaming destination passed a law last Thursday banning casino employees from entering the floors when off duty.

While officials hailed the data and employee ban as marks of the work they were doing to tackle problem and pathological gambling, the figures represented a tiny drop in the ocean when put in context of overall visitor numbers.

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An eye-watering 32.6 million people visited Macau in 2017 and, in a city which would struggle to exist without the gaming dollar, the bulk spent most of their time at the bustling baccarat tables.

From the latest figures, 200 – or 85.5 per cent – of the requests were “self-exclusion” demands, while the remainder were submitted by third parties.

In the whole of last year, 376 applications for exclusion were registered by casinos, compared with 351 in 2016, 355 in 2015, 280 in 2014 and 276 in 2013.

Under a law which came into force in November 2012, the DICJ may bar entry to all or some casinos for people who request such a sanction themselves or are subject to a request on their behalf by a spouse, parent, child or close relative, for a maximum period of two years.

During the exclusion period, those who violate the ban can be fined from 1,000 patacas to 10,000 patacas (US$1,200). A supervisory duty is also imposed upon the casino operator, a breach of which could bring a fine ranging from 10,000 patacas to 500,000 patacas.

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“Among the individuals registered in recent years as affected by gambling addiction, croupiers and other casino workers made up the largest percentage,” Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong told lawmakers who passed the employee ban last week.

The latest figures also paled in comparison with those of Singapore.

The Lion City’s relatively new gaming industry – which has a much less freewheeling attitude towards access to games of chance than Macau – has recorded 277,446 active exclusions since the first casino opened for business in February 2010.