Macau gambling age may go up

Jimmy Fricke
Does Macau really want to deny Gobboboy the right to gamble?

Macau is on its way to replacing Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world, but a recent announcement by the island's chief executive could slow that progress down a little.

Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah announced his plan last week to raise the minimum age for people to enter casinos from 18 to 21.

The news came up during a question-and-answer session with legislators, according to an AHN story. Legislators were surprised because the chief executive hadn't mentioned the possible change during his address to them the day before.

Ho Hau-wah told the legislators that the gambling boom in Macau could not continue indefinitely without addressing the social costs.

Last year, Macau became the most profitable gambling center in the world, generating $7 billion in gambling revenue. It surpassed the Las Vegas Strip by about $1 billion.

This year the Venetian Macao Resort also opened on the island, a $2.4 billion resort with 850 gaming tables and 4,100 slot machines. Upon opening it became the world's biggest casino, and it employs about 15,000 people.

According to a DPA article on, the gambling boom has had its social costs as Macau's infrastructure tries to cope with the 200,000 people crossing the land border with China each day. Students just leaving school are also choosing casino jobs over going to college.

The proposal is getting cautious approval from local gambling concern groups in China, though there is still some concern that people under 21 will turn to horse race or soccer game betting if they're not allowed in the casinos.

Legislator Leong On-kei, fourth wife of Stanley Ho, who used to hold the gambling monopoly in Macau, commented that even though the age change may result in a drop in business, it will also better Macau's image in the international community and be beneficial for the industry.

The 18-year-olds currently working in the casinos need not worry yet either. Ho Hau-wah didn't reveal any time lines for his proposal as of yet. Part of his plan would also include a three-year grace period for current casino workers.

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