A recent academic study has shed light on the difficulties faced by frontline casino employees in Macau when attempting to address problematic gambling behaviors despite their strong understanding of responsible gambling principles.

Conducted by the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies at Macao Polytechnic University and cited by Asia Gaming Brief, the study concludes that while most casino staff have a solid grasp of responsible gambling concepts, a number of obstacles prevent them from effectively intervening in cases of problem gambling. “Most frontline casino employees understand responsible gambling clearly, but a few employees have significant cognitive biases. Employees are generally able to identify problems but rarely proactively intervene in problem gambling behavior,” the study states.

The research identifies several key barriers, including role ambiguity, fear of offending clients or encountering trouble, fear of misidentification, and a lack of support, guidance, or knowledge, which hinder staff from taking proactive measures against problem gambling.

Manian Wongkun and Liu Shuang, scholars at the Centre for Gaming and Tourism Studies, authored the study. They utilized semi-structured interviews with 49 frontline casino employees from six gaming companies in Macau. Their findings were published in the academic journal Global Gaming & Tourism Research under the title “The Perceptions and Practical Dilemmas of Responsible Gambling Faced by Frontline Casino Employees in Macao.”

Foreign Tourists Primarily Exposed

The study reveals that many casino employees mistakenly believe that Macau’s responsible gambling initiatives are only directed at local residents and casino workers, excluding tourists. Given that a significant portion of Macau’s gaming revenue is generated by tourists from mainland China and Hong Kong, it is inferred that problematic gambling behaviors may be more prevalent among these visitors.

Despite the establishment of a Responsible Gambling Working Group by the Macau government in 2009 to promote responsible gaming policies, most awareness activities are targeted at Macau residents through local channels such as mobile applications. Consequently, foreign gamblers are primarily exposed to responsible gambling information through minimal signage and pamphlets within casinos, potentially contributing to a misunderstanding among casino staff regarding the broader application of responsible gambling measures.

The study reflects on the history of problem gambling in Macau, noting that the liberalization of the gambling industry two decades ago led to a significant increase in problem gambling. According to surveys by the University of Macau Gambling Research Institute, the prevalence of problem gambling among residents rose from 4.28% in 2003 to 6.01% in 2007 before gradually declining. However, specific analyses of problem gambling among non-resident gamblers remain scarce.

Observations of casino employees indicate that the issue of problem gambling has not substantially decreased, affecting both local and non-resident gamblers. If left unaddressed, this issue could jeopardize the long-term sustainability of Macau’s gaming industry.

Looking at Other Countries

The study suggests that Macau could benefit from adopting practices from other jurisdictions, including enhanced training for casino staff and legislative measures. It cites examples from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and parts of Switzerland, where legislation mandates the development of policies, training, and strategies to identify and assist problem gamblers.

The authors propose that Macau should consider similar legislative requirements, including clear responsibilities and standards for implementation. They advocate for comprehensive and in-depth discussions to establish effective intervention strategies for problem gamblers.

Gaming scholars believe that improving responsible gambling practices in Macau will require continued training for casino employees, clear delineation of intervention responsibilities, and enhanced responsible gambling education for all gamblers, particularly non-residents. This approach is seen as crucial for the advancement of responsible gambling measures in Macau’s gaming sector.