he age increase is now being considered again, as well as a table limit number at each casino. Academics and gambling experts say the age limit should be the first step.
The University of Macau (UM) held a symposium on Responsible Gambling. The event was co-organised by the Hong Kong Polytechnic Institute, which saw a number of international scholars, government officials and NGO representatives gather.
Talking to the media on the sidelines of the event, the director of Institute for the Study of Commercial Gambling of the UM, Davis Fong, underlined the importance of the Government taking the leading role to introduce the so-called responsible gaming policy.
“There must be a concrete responsible gambling policy in Macau, otherwise the casino operators and other stakeholders may not do it aggressively,” he said.
Five years have now passed since the liberalisation of the gaming market, now is the time, according to Peter Collins, for the Government to review its policies, in relation to the Central Government. Collins, one of the symposium’s keynote speakers, is professor of Public Policies Studies at the University of Salford, United Kingdom.But which action should be put in place first? Davis Fong and Peter Collins have different opinions, though both agree on the casino entry-age approach.
According to UM’s latest research into gambling among Macau’s local youth in 2004, around 26 % of young people (aged between 13 and 29) that would probably be pathological gamblers. “This number is higher than in the general population. And that’s because young people have a lot of spare time, so they have more time for entertainment. Other jurisdictions face the same problem. The MSAR Government should pay more attention to it,” Davis Fong said.
“We have learned that some students give up further education or higher education to look for a job in a casino. This [age] limit will enable the students enough time to pursue their education and so having finished a degree, around 21, they may go inside a casino. The government should implement the entry-age limit change as soon as possible,” he added.
The 21-year-old limit already exists, for instance, in Nevada, USA. On the sidelines of the symposium, the president of MGM Grand Paradise Limited, Grant Bowie, said that “the projection of responsible gambling policies in young people is very important”.
Peter Collins said that “the part of the brain that enable us to develop the self-control is not fully developed in young people until they reach their twenties.” However, in accordance with the British scholar, the first thing to be done should be “a free telephone guide line with trained counsellors answering the phone.”
Collins is the Executive Director of the South African National Responsible Gambling Programme and has been an adviser on gambling policy to governments in South Africa, Gibraltar, Jersey, the UK and Singapore.