An awful lot of hysteria has been created by rumours that government is considering a casino. What's all the fuss about? People can already gamble to their heart's content. But we have do-gooders shrieking that civilisation is in peril and the world will end if Hong Kongers are permitted anywhere near a blackjack table. Haven't they heard of the Stock Exchange, commonly referred to as 'The Big Casino?' Don't they know jet-propelled vessels every hour carry people to the gambling halls of Macau? Haven't they seen large establishments at Happy Valley and Sha Tin with horses running about in circles; do they think 75,000 enthusiasts cram Sha Tin stands because they are animal lovers? Then there is the growing threat of illegal betting via Internet and telephone accounts to every variety of global gaming. The row about a local casino is all a great commotion about very little. First of all, and this remains a long-odds bet if the casino plan goes ahead, it's not going to throw open its doors to naive innocents. I doubt there is an adult in Hong Kong who doesn't know how to place a wager. I agree there is an unwelcome side to legalised gambling. That's why I think if the proposal proceeds, it must be tightly controlled. Who better to do this than the Jockey Club? It has vast experience, can handle huge amounts of money and can provide not only the venue but is well able to train staff. The top floors of the Happy Valley race course stands could be easily reconfigured as a casino on days when there is no racing at that track. Admittedly, there are social risks. The evils perpetrated in Macau are legendary, with loan sharks cruising the gaming halls like hungry hammerheads off a bathing beach. There is no power or law on earth that can protect stupid people from their own idiocy. But the Jockey Club has immense experience at security and there is no reason that a list of undesirables should not be maintained. Loan sharks, triad members, criminals and bankrupts, for instance, could easily be barred from entry. As things stand, Hong Kong is in effect subsidising Macau and its plump gaming industry. It makes sense for us to provide our own venue. Surely we should be reaping the benefits ourselves rather than see a constant tidal wave of money flowing over the Pearl River to enrich the coffers of Macau. I have no doubt the Jockey Club could do this job well. Asked about the situation, Jockey Club Chief Executive Lawrence Wong gave a guarded reply; obviously, it would be inappropriate for him to take a stand. He makes the point, however, that the club has a responsibility to serve our society. Mr Wong says that if our government decided Hong Kong should have a casino, then obviously it is part of the club's mission to help in any way it can. That's probably the most intelligent comment I have heard in this continuing public debate. I would like to see a bit of common sense injected into the issue. Let's look at reality. It's a truism about casinos that familiarity breeds indifference as well as contempt. This is well illustrated in the case of Australia. Every Australian capital has a casino. Most of the time, there are about as many people in them as there are at the top of Ayers Rock, eg, very few. When the first casino was opened Down Under, in 1972 in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, the usual panic arose among those who love sticking their noses into other people's business. It would ruin the family, destroy society, devastate the Australian way of life, plunge the island into degeneracy and bankrupt the state treasury. Well, the last I heard, Hobart was hardly a rival for Sodom or Gomorrah. After 27 years of legalised gambling, the pleasant town remains sedate. The great argument against gambling is what has happened in recent years in Macau, where gangsterism has terrified the population. That will not happen in Hong Kong and the reason it will not happen is that we have an efficient, effective and determined police force. We also enjoy the services of an anti-corruption agency that is the envy of many graft-ridden societies. Together, they are more than a match for the criminal rabble the like of which has been able to run amok in Macau. A casino would be an ace up the sleeve of our tourism industry. I refuse to believe, and statistics all over the world bear this out, that a single casino entices visitors to a particular destination. A gaming outlet is a valuable add-on attraction, part of a tourism package. When a casino opens in a city, it is crowded. The first month sees it packed with curious locals. But because it is openly available, the allure of the gaming tables soon wears off. People find there is more to life than standing in front of a fruit machine or the repetitive boredom of a roulette wheel. Should we have a casino? I think so. Properly run, as the Jockey Club would manage it, a gaming venue would pour money into the treasury and boost revenues into the club's charitable foundation. Those people who charge that a casino would have a devastating social impact show very little faith in the common sense of the Hong Kong community.