One in four teenagers admit to underage gambling as World Cup fever rages

Group says smartphone and online platforms make it easier for young people to get round age verification

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 7:02pm

With World Cup fever raging on, about one in four teenagers has been involved in gambling activities, a recent survey has found.

The poll, jointly conducted by Shue Yan University and the Society for Truth and Light, showed 70 per cent of the 5,600 people polled were students under the age of 18 – with 24 per cent of them admitting that they had gambled.

A quarter of the respondents polled before and during the World Cup said they gamble on soccer, with some mobile phone apps allowing users to place more than 10 bets on a single match. At least 18 per cent of those surveyed admitting to borrowing money for gambling, though the actual number could be higher.

Smartphone apps were the most popular form of betting channel after the Hong Kong Jockey Club, drawing in 17 per cent and 36 per cent of underage respondents respectively. Another 14 per cent said they went on online casinos for placing bets.

The majority of underage respondents, 58 per cent, also said they have placed bets using wagers other than money, such as soft drinks to avoid making large financial bets.

Franny Mok Yuk-lan, head of the Christian New Hope Fellowship, noted that the advent of mobile technology has made gambling faster and more accessible – in particular for teenagers looking for a way around age verification. She warned that gambling of any kind was the first step in a slippery slope to addiction.

“No one knows that they’ll become a pathological gambler,” she said, adding that the she believed the problem of underage gambling was growing more serious.

The Jockey Club’s e-betting service is the only legally authorised online gambling platform, where residents are required to show proof of age by submitting their Hong Kong ID or passport information.

However, underage gamblers commonly bypass verification hurdles by using friends’ or family members’ information; in some cases, with their permission, the poll showed. Among them, 24 per cent said they gambled illegally with the help of others.

“[Many] parents in fact encourage their kids to gamble,” Mok said.

Past studies have shown that teenage and online gamblers are especially vulnerable to addiction, a problem that is only exacerbated by major sporting events, according to the polls' organiser.