Gambling restrictions are facing a challenge from a lawmaker who wants to exempt people who place bets with illegal bookmakers from criminal sanctions. Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of The Frontier, said the Government should only punish gambling operators who breached the new law, rather than individual gamblers. Under the Gambling (Amendment) Bill 2000 to tackle offshore betting, unauthorised bookmakers and gamblers will both be committing a criminal offence. But officials have said police would mainly target bookmakers instead of spying on individuals. At a Legco bills committee meeting yesterday, Ms Ho said the criminal offence should be scrapped if gamblers were not the target. 'The bill has given the Government too much power and it may infringe privacy,' she said, adding that she would consider an amendment to remove the sanction. But Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Stephen Fisher warned against the move. 'It would effectively make it lawful for anyone to bet on whatever they like. The whole policy of confining gambling activities to horse racing and Mark Six will collapse,' he said. He emphasised that anyone in Hong Kong who placed a bet with local or overseas bookmakers would be committing an offence under the legislation. The offence also covers those who ask an agent to place bets for them outside Hong Kong. Major political parties also expressed reservations in removing the sanction, but agreed police should spell out enforcement details to prevent abuse of power. Senior Superintendent of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau Lo Mung-hung said police officers would seek court approval if Internet surveillance or telephone interception was needed.