Anti-gambling strategy ineffective: lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 March, 2009, 12:00am

The government's efforts to curb the spread of gambling had been ineffective, lawmakers said yesterday.

The accusation came after two-thirds of respondents to a university study said they took no notice of official publicity against gambling.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said the results of the survey - conducted by the Polytechnic University - showed the government's publicity efforts had failed.

Speaking at a meeting of the Legislative Council's home affairs panel, she suggested off-course betting centres should be more vigilant to prevent access by young people.

Panel members also expressed concern that a committee set up to advise the Secretary for Home Affairs on gambling was biased because half its members were voting members of the Jockey Club or closely associated with it.

Wong Sing-chi said the Ping Wo Fund Advisory Committee should be reconstituted to remove this bias.

Cyd Ho Sau-lan said a fixed amount of racing proceeds should be channelled to finance support services for pathological gamblers.

But Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Grace Lui Kit-yuk dismissed the suggestion as contrary to the financial principle that betting duties should be pooled to general revenue and allocated centrally.

She promised the government would step up publicity efforts against gambling and would review membership of the advisory committee when it was due for renewal.

The Ping Wo Fund receives HK$15 million from the Jockey Club each year. Some HK$500,000 in private donations have also been received, and the fund's balance stands at HK$4 million.

The Home Affairs Bureau commissioned the Polytechnic University to conduct a study into the Hongkongers' gambling patterns.