Public estate tenants risk ejection under new gambling rules
Tenants convicted of illegal gambling in the common areas of public housing estates and those whose flats are used for illegal purposes will receive demerit points under a Housing Department proposal.
The department's committee will discuss the suggestions next Tuesday, and if passed they will be implemented next year.
In August 2003 the department launched a scheme under which households found to have committed misdemeanours - such as littering and causing a noise nuisance - receive demerit points, and those accumulating 16 points over two years can be expelled.
A department source said yesterday that housing officials proposed adding two new elements - five demerit points for tenants convicted of illegal gambling in common areas of estates, and seven demerit points for those whose flats are used for illegal activities, even if the tenants are unaware of them.
The source said illegal gambling on public housing estates was common, especially among the elderly in estate parks.
'It's not a good culture and people gathering may cause hygiene problems, for example, littering and spitting,' the source said.
The department had installed closed-circuit television on nine estates with more serious gambling problems in the past two years to enable the police to collect evidence for prosecutions.
The estates are Lek Yuen Estate in Sha Tin, Ping Shek Estate in Kwun Tong, Choi Fai Estate in Choi Hung, Tai Hing Estate in Tuen Mun, Tai Wo Hau Estate, Lei Muk Shue Estate and Kwai Shing West Estate in Kwai Chung, Hing Man Estate in Chai Wan and Wah Fu Estate in Pok Fu Lam.
Mobile closed-circuit TV cameras will also be installed on other public housing estates in the future.
Under present rules, the Housing Department can terminate the tenancies of residents caught using their leased premises for illegal activities, such as selling illicit cigarettes and illegal gambling.
But if it cannot be proven in court that the tenants knew their flats were being used as venues for criminal activity, the department can only issue warning letters.
Under the new proposal, the department will award demerit points in cases where tenants do not know about the crime.
Since 2004, 71 households were found to be involved in illegal use of leased premises, of which 44 were expelled.
The source said the illegal gambling cases on the premises were usually bookmaking, which was 'much more serious' than social gambling in estate parks.
Wong Kwan, a committee member, said he agreed with the good intentions of the proposal.
But he said he had reservations about regulating so many aspects of tenants' activities.
The district councillor representing Wah Fu Estate, Au Lap-sing, was worried the proposal would deprive elderly people of entertainment, because they regarded gambling in the parks as a social activity.
From 2003, a total of 6,270 households have been awarded demerit points, with 12 accumulating 16 points in two years.
The number of households to have received demerit points between August 2003 and this month
16 or more 12
SOURCE: HOUSING DEPARTMENT