Anti-soccer gambling groups yesterday mounted a last ditch effort to oppose legalised football betting, which is expected to kick off next month if the bill is passed on Wednesday. The Great Coalition to Oppose Legalisation of Soccer Betting, which comprises 55 Christian, social welfare and education groups, petitioned for lawmakers' support outside the Legislative Council building at Chater Garden. Criticising the government for introducing soccer gambling without undergoing sufficient consultation, the coalition warned that society would eventually pay a high price. The groups were also unhappy that the government had failed to take into account the views of 93 groups who expressed their opposition during the soccer betting bill's public hearing earlier this year. 'The government had said legalising soccer gambling was needed to fight illegal bookmaking. But it has so far failed to tell how serious the problem is,' said Wong Hak-lim, spokesman for the coalition. Choi Chi-sum, a spokesman for 12 Christian groups opposed to soccer gambling, warned that social unity would be hurt if the bill was forced through. About 100 Christians also petitioned outside Legco yesterday, while some reformed gamblers spoke of their experiences. Public support for soccer gambling has increased over the past few months since the government warned of a mounting fiscal deficit. A survey conducted by the Polytechnic University in 2001 found only 51.2 per cent of respondents supported soccer betting, but the number increased to 74.6 per cent in March this year. The government has estimated that soccer gambling will generate an extra income of $1.5 billion a year from the betting duty charged.