Three-quarters of respondents to a recent survey support the legalisation of soccer betting, compared with about half the population two years ago - proof, say researchers, that the government has succeeded with its lobbying on the issue. The University of Hong Kong conducted the telephone survey in March, interviewing a random group of 600 people aged 15 years and above. Most of those who back legalisation have at least some secondary education. 'I think the fact that educated people have shown more support for the legalisation of soccer gambling is indirect evidence that this is an intellectual debate,' said the director of the university's Social Sciences Research Centre, John Bacon-Shone, who headed the research. 'I assume they have been persuaded by the argument that it's better to control it than to leave it in the hands of illegal bookmakers.' The Legislative Council is currently reviewing a bill to legalise soccer gambling, which is backed by the government. If the bill passes next month, the Hong Kong Jockey Club plans to start offering soccer betting services to coincide with the start of the European soccer season in August. The Jockey Club is to give half of its gross revenues from soccer betting, estimated at $30 billion a year, to the government. Most of those who agree with legalisation said they did so because they trusted the Jockey Club. The second most popular reason was to support charity. In 2001, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that 51.2 per cent of the population supported legalisation, versus 74.6 per cent in the March survey. However, the number of people who said they would bet on soccer games if it became legal only rose slightly, to 12 per cent from 10.5 per cent two years ago. 'It certainly does not look like soccer gambling will overshadow Mark Six or horse race gambling in the near future,' Dr Bacon-Shone said. The most popular form of gambling in Hong Kong is the Mark Six. Among other findings of the survey, about half of those interviewed said they believed gambling was a market problem driven by supply and demand. Some 18.7 per cent said it was a moral issue. Nearly half of those surveyed thought gambling was a moderate social problem and 39.7 per cent said the police needed to do more to crack down on illegal gambling.