Issues surrounding Hong Kong's gambling laws and Internet betting appear to have caught up with the territory's banks. HSBC has stopped authorising online gambling transactions through its credit cards, claiming the decision was taken on legal advice. The news is sure to infuriate Hong Kong's gambling community, which increasingly is being lured away from regular Hong Kong Jockey Club betting to the more exotic bets offered on the Internet. English Premiership soccer betting, in particular, is proving hugely popular with Hong Kong punters. While HSBC declined to elaborate on the nature of the legal advice which prompted the move, gambling law expert Rob Deans believes its concerns are twofold. Firstly, according to Mr Deans, HSBC is likely to be worried about contravening section 7 of the Gambling Ordinance, which expressly prohibits 'assisting' in bookmaking. Secondly, the bank may be worried that it cannot recover online gambling debts run up by card-holders in Hong Kong courts, as the contract between card issuer and card-holder may, in this case, be unenforceable. On both counts, Mr Deans believes the banks have little to worry about. Hong Kong's other banks also appear concerned about the consequences of allowing their credit card-holders to gamble on the Internet. Standard Chartered has no restrictions yet, but is reviewing the situation. 'We are pro-actively looking at this situation,' said a Standard Chartered spokesman. 'We do have concern for this situation.' Hang Seng Bank also has no restriction surrounding online gambling transactions using its credit cards. However, Shanghai Commercial Bank, International Bank of Asia and Bank of China do not authorise online betting using their credit cards. One year ago, when HSBC first made the decision to cease authorising Internet betting, the SAR Government first raised the issue of illegality. Since then, however, the Department of Justice has reiterated that it cannot prosecute under the existing laws, and a new amendment has to be proposed. The Gambling Amendment Bill is currently under review by the Legislative Council (Legco) but a number of people have expressed the view that it will still not be able to contain Internet betting. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is a strong supporter of the Bill, having seen its revenues drop due to Internet-based competition. It refused to comment on HSBC's decision. 'We certainly would not have any involvement in the bank's internal policy,' said a spokesman. A recent study by NetValue showed that online gambling is on the rise in Hong Kong. From 22 per cent in October, 41 per cent of Internet users visited a gambling site in December. The Government is concerned over the threat to revenue posed by online betting. Last year, more than 5 per cent of its revenue came from Jockey Club betting duty.