PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 July, 2010, 12:00am

Betting duty rate far too high in Hong Kong

David Yuen expressed the view that the most effective means to deter illegal bookies is for the Hong Kong Jockey Club to match the odds offered by the illicit operators ('Poor odds lead to illegal betting', June 22).

In common with your reader, we are extremely concerned about the prevalence of illegal gambling - not just on football but also on horse racing and all kinds of sports betting available on the internet and through other unauthorised channels.

What your reader did not mention is the fact that the Jockey Club is subject to the highest tax burden in the world. It is therefore not possible - nor is it appropriate - for the Jockey Club, on its own, to offer odds similar to illegal bookmakers.

The club is paying 50 per cent of its gross margin on football and 72.5-75 per cent on horse racing to the government as tax. This is several times higher than licensed operators in jurisdictions such as Britain where the tax rate is 15 per cent. Illegal bookmakers, of course, pay no taxes and make no contributions to charity. In other words, the heavy tax burden has meant the club faces an uphill battle vis-?-vis the price discount, credit and other incentives used by illegal and unauthorised offshore operators to entice the Hong Kong public.

The Jockey Club will be better able to compete with the illegal and offshore odds makers if the government agrees to lower the betting duty rate to the world norm.

This will be welcomed by the community as some of the betting dollars currently leaked to underground and offshore will return to the regulated pool and be channelled back to the community and many worthy charities in Hong Kong.

Further, closing the gap between the Hong Kong betting duty rate and the world norm will help to protect government revenue in the long term.

June Teng, head of public affairs, The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Throwing away trump card

People say that politics is the art of compromise, it is about give and take. But this is the case only when you really have things to give. Beijing offers everything for everyone.

The Democrats had only one thing - a clear road map for genuine universal suffrage, something that could not be given away.

Yet, this is exactly the thing they have now willingly let go by supporting the constitutional reform package. Don't they see that their bargaining power has been chipped away by this one wrong move?

What they should have done instead was to stand united and millions of citizens would have stood behind them on the streets.

This was the only thing that worried Beijing. But how do things stand now?

When it comes to the reforms of 2017 and 2020, I can see Beijing repeating the same trick, although it will be an easier trick to perform, because it has fewer targets. It is all about divide and conquer and the damage is already done.

The turning point of the whole debate was when Beijing accepted the Democratic Party's proposal regarding the way to elect the added five functional constituency seats.

In politics when negotiating you should hold on to what you have as long as you can and not budge an inch.

J. Y. K. Cheng, Quarry Bay

New set-up not a direct election

If you call the 'one person, two votes' arrangement for the five new functional constituency seats a 'direct election' ('Changing political landscape', June 26) and 'directly electing' ('Government eyes proportional representation election system', July 27), then what mode of election is there left that is not a direct election?

The Hong Kong administration was careful enough to point out this is not a direct election before recommending it to the central government. And the Basic Law is specific enough to call something a 'direct election' when that is what it is, as in Annex II referring to the geographical constituency elections, but to call it 'universal suffrage' (which could be direct or indirect elections) when it is universal suffrage, as in Article 45. As we move towards the battles of election methods we must be more specific about what we mean.

Peter Lok, Chai Wan

Protesters in minority

The League of Social Democrats and certain radical activists have claimed that the public was outraged by the passage of the government's 2012 electoral reform package and felt betrayed by the Democratic Party. But is this really so?

While thousands surrounded the Legislative Council building to protest about the controversial high-speed rail link in January, just a few dozen gathered for the final vote on electoral reform last week, with four of them indulging in the silly antics of trying to block the traffic in Connaught Road. The facts speak for themselves.

If these people are true democrats (instead of bullies and tyrants), they should bow to the wishes of the public, the majority of whom do support the revised package as modified by the Democratic Party, as has been indicated by opinion polls.

Jennifer Wong, Kowloon Tong

Attack on Szeto was insulting

Lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, of the League of Social Democrats, is well known for capturing public attention with sarcastic and embarrassing remarks.

However, his comments about Szeto Wah were an attack on the integrity of a highly respected democrat. Mr Szeto has been fighting for democracy for more than 30 years and has made a lot of sacrifices in support of Hong Kong's democratic development.

Despite being ill with cancer, he is still involved in this movement.

Mr Leung's remark rubbed salt into the wound for a patient who is already suffering because of his condition. Freedom of speech should not entitle us to make insulting remarks.

Siu Wai-yin, Kwun Tong

SFC must end programme

On June 18, the Securities and Futures Commission announced it would begin a mystery shopping programme. Mystery shoppers will pose and pretend to buy investment products from licensed sales people within the industry, in order to examine the appropriateness of the methods used by the intermediaries.

Let us assume 97 out of 100 sales people carry out their business according to good practice and that the remaining three do not.

This means that the SFC is going to lure 97 perfectly good individuals, who are going about their business in an ordinary and honest manner, into a situation where the 97 will be interrupted and disturbed and have their time wasted (buying will not occur) just so the SFC can catch three 'unfit' people. Does the SFC have to spy like this? It could even possibly lead to prosecutions of the so-called unfit.

This is wrong and it illustrates that since the SFC has to resort to these tactics to catch the unfit people, it is failing to meet its regulatory responsibilities.

I call upon the SFC to cease this programme immediately and announce that it has done so on its website.

Glenn Turner, chairman, Independent Financial Advisers Association

Tutorial classes can be helpful

There has been some criticism of tutorial colleges and it has been suggested that children need to get a life outside the classroom and get involved in extra-curricular activities.

However, I think school results are still the first priority for young people. Students should revise and study well.

Teachers can get across textbook knowledge to pupils in the classroom.

Private tutors can teach them exam skills and this can help them achieve better grades. Also, the bar is being raised in education and the workplace. To get a good job, a university degree is a minimum requirement. Parents have to recognise this when deciding how much to spend on their children's education.

It has been said that pupils who attend tutorial classes do not have much of a childhood and family relationships are adversely affected.

I am a secondary student and have two tutorial lessons per week. They have not caused me any problems at home. Instead, I feel happier as my grades are better, which pleases my parents. Tutorial classes help many students.

Sylvia Law, Tuen Mun

Regulations sadly lacking

Hong Kong people are well known for their generosity when it comes to making donations to help the underprivileged. But is their money getting through to the people in need?

More people are now to be found on the streets asking for donations. Some of them are not representing genuine charities.

There is no official definition of what constitutes a charity or a charitable purpose nor are there regulations relating to charities and how they use their money.

New organisations are set up which have names similar to bona fide organisations. This confuses people. They want to make a contribution, but are hesitant. As a consequence there is a reduction in the amount of money which gets to those who need it.

There must be transparency and greater accountability.

Unless the government introduces stricter regulations governing charities, a lot of people's hard-earned money will continue to be misused.

In the meantime, it is important for donors to ask questions and find out more about an organisation before they give it any money.

Lam Ho-pak, Tuen Mun