Sunday, February 25, 2007

Girl wins $100,000 jackpot, despite being too young to gamble

A casino in Macau has been ordered to pay out nearly $100,000 (£51,000) in prize money won by a 16-year-old girl who was too young to enter the casino.

The Sands Casino had said the win was invalid because the girl was underage.

But gambling authorities in the Chinese territory said the rules only specified a minimum age for entering the casino, not for gambling once inside.

The prize is to go to the girl's mother and the laws are to be rewritten to close the age loophole.

The 16-year-old girl from Hong Kong, whose name has not been released, was given the equivalent of about $12 by her grandmother as a Lunar New Year present to play on the slot machines in nearby Macau.

Legal puzzle

She went to the Sands Casino with her mother and grandmother and put all her money into one slot machine.

The winning combination came up, but the casino refused to pay out when staff discovered the girl was under 18.

Macau's gambling watchdog, the Gaming Inspection and Co-ordination Bureau, overruled the casino's decision after meeting the girl and her mother.

"We have decided that the money must be paid, not to the child, but to her mother," the bureau's director Manuel Joaquim das Neves, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

The gaming bureau has, however, barred the mother from Macau's casinos as punishment for bringing a minor inside.

The BBC's Vaudine England in Hong Kong says a legal puzzle arose because the contract between any gambler and the casino requires payment of winnings.

But the law does not say what to do if a minor illegally enters a casino, gambles, and wins.

Macau has been working on a major overhaul of its gambling laws since the monopoly on gambling licences was ended in 2002.

The casino industry has been booming since then, and the legal loophole barring under-18s from entering casinos but allowing them to play is likely to be closed, says our correspondent.

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