Macau casinos reported approximately 80,000 more instances of refusing entry to underage individuals last year than the number of entry refusals to individuals under 21 in all of 2016, which was reported at around 350,000 denials.

GGRAsia reports the difference represents a significant year-on-year swell of 23 percent from last year’s 430,000 instances, a new annual record, according to figures issued by the Chinese special administrative region’s Gaming and Inspection Coordination Bureau (DICJ) as cited by local broadcaster Radio Macau on Tuesday.

The legal age to enter a casino was raised from 18 to 21 for residents of Macau, effective from November 2012. The legal gambling age for foreigners remains 18 years of age. At the time, the move by the Macau government was described as fashioned mainly to protect locals and to encourage high school graduates to continue their education rather than choose employment as a casino dealer. In order to work as a dealer in the city’s casinos, a Macau ID is required.

According to the law, individuals under the legally required age of 21 who either work at or gamble in a Macau casino are subject to a fine of MOP1,000(US$125) up to MOP10,000. Casino operators are subject to a fine of between MOP10,000 and MOP500,000 for permitting entrance to anyone under the age of 21 or employing an individual under the legal age.

Currently, the government of Macau, officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is considering introducing a new rule that would bar those employed by casinos from engaging in any activity related to gambling during non-working hours. The city’s gaming regulator is also proposing more efficient processing of instances where individuals are found within Macau’s casino floors.

In a September press release last year, the DICJ said the reason is because the majority of people found in breach of the rule are tourists; therefore, introducing simplified proceedings would reportedly make for more efficient handling of these types of cases while also reducing associated costs.

Investment analysts estimate that the contribution to Macau’s gross gaming revenue from local players is small by percentage.

Macau’s biggest source of income, gambling comprises about half of its economy. The majority of visitors to the autonomous region are Chinese nationals from Hong Kong and Mainland China, according to Wikipedia. In 2006 Macau posted higher revenues than Las Vegas and is now the richest casino destination in the world. In 2013, Macau’s then 35 casinos generated approximately HKD $348.9 billion (US$45 billion) in gross gambling wins; more than all of the casinos in the US combined.

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