A sports lottery would not encourage gambling in society because it would not be 'serious betting', the Secretary for Home Affairs said yesterday.
Speaking on RTHK, Lam Woon-kwong said that in light of the massive budget deficit, the chances of the Government increasing funding for sport were slim and a lottery was a good solution.
'A lottery is an instant form of income, it is reliable and stable and would not mean people lose their entire savings overnight. The amount of money people place on sport lottery tickets is limited and draws would not be frequent,' he said.
'Although a sports lottery is a kind of gambling, people would not treat it as a very serious betting activity.'
He said such lotteries were common in other countries.
The Home Affairs Department last week recommended a lottery as a new funding source for sport in a 106-page report, 'Towards a more sporting culture'. It said a lottery could be held several times a year.
The proposal was unveiled the day after legislators voted to ban offshore and online gambling, from Friday.
It also recommended replacing the Sports Development Board with a high-powered sports commission to set out policies and funding for sporting groups.
When asked why the Government had banned tobacco sponsorship of sports but proposed a sports lottery, which critics said would encourage young people to gamble, Mr Lam said the two were fundamentally different.
Democrat legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo criticised the proposal, saying it would encourage young people to gamble. 'Of course casinos and soccer betting are worse than a lottery. But why should we link something bad to playing sport, which is a healthy activity?' he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Lam said 'tens of millions' of dollars could be redirected back to training athletes if the board was scrapped. Duplication of work between the board, the Home Affairs Bureau and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department would be avoided, he said.
He said the new commission would be a high-level consultative body which would set the SAR's sports policy.
Day-to-day operations, such as allocation of funds, would be done by a taskforce.
But he warned that under the new scheme, some sports bodies would still be left unhappy.
'So we should not think the new way will prevent conflicts,' he said.
He dismissed fears that the new body would have too much power in deciding policies and promised the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong would still make decisions on international sports issues.