A plan to expand gambling by introducing sweep stakes and legalising betting on soccer has unleashed a storm of controversy. While a group of social workers described it as 'toxic candy', the Hong Kong Football Association welcomed the proposal, saying it was the way forward for the sport. The Home Affairs Bureau said the Government was collecting public opinions on legalising betting on soccer and a working group involving government officials would be formed to study the topic further. Earlier, Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Alan Li Fook-sum said the club would consider operating a football gambling operation. In the face of serious competition from Internet betting, especially on soccer matches, the club has seen revenue drop. The Government found there was a burgeoning number of illegal bookmakers doing a highly lucrative business taking on the live games shown on Cable TV every weekend. Legalising some betting on soccer was seen as a way to curb illegal gambling. However, a survey conducted by youth organisation Breakthrough and the Society for Truth and Light showed that most people were against legalising soccer betting and sweepstakes. Breakthrough manager Eileen Mok Wai-chi said she was disappointed that the Government and the Jockey Club were looking into legalising betting on soccer because it would create more gambling-associated problems. However, Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) vice-chairman Ken Ng was adamant that legal betting was the way forward for the sport in the SAR. 'It is inherently wrong that millions and millions of dollars leave Hong Kong for overseas on football betting. It is not as if it could not be run in Hong Kong. 'Actually it is already, but obviously illegally,' he said. 'That's what is of paramount interest and importance to the HKFA. Some of the massive money generated through football betting should go back into the sport, whether it is in Singapore, South Korea or Hong Kong. 'Proper development of football requires money . . . and there's not a lot of it around at the moment,' Ng said. Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of the Society for Truth and Light, an organisation of social workers and teachers, was outraged by the plan to extend legal gambling. He said the Jockey Club's promotion of the New Year's Eve sweepstake as a millennium celebration was 'toxic candy'. 'It's ridiculous to say that gambling will help to promote football in Hong Kong. Should we also have gambling on other sporting events in order to promote sport activities, even the Asian Games?' he said. Secretary for Home Affairs David Lan Hong-tsung denied the sweepstake would promote gambling. 'It's not like having children selling sweepstake tickets,' he said. A Jockey Club spokesman said promoting gambling among young people had never been its intention. He said the millennium sweepstake and races were only being held to mark a special New Year's Eve.