Children as young as nine say they intend to gamble on the soccer tournament Children, some as young as nine, are planning to bet on the World Cup, with some regarding the sporting event as more important than their academic performance, a survey has found. The researcher who conducted the survey warned that the situation was worrying. He called on the government to immediately step up measures to avoid gambling addiction in young students, especially as soccer fever is sweeping the city. The survey last month interviewed 780 students aged between nine and 19 and was commissioned by Watsons Athletic Club Parents. It showed 43 per cent said they would watch games even though they had to study for exams this month. Thirty per cent said they would spend at least an hour watching the games every day and 36 per cent wanted schools to change the exam dates to avoid clashing with the World Cup. A total of 8.6 per cent of all students polled said they planned to bet on the World Cup, including 9.7 per cent from primary schools and 7.5 per cent from secondary schools. Primary students accounted for about 40 per cent of the students interviewed. The margin of error of the survey is about 5 per cent, according to Lobo Louie Hung-tak, associate professor of the department of physical education at the Baptist University, who carried out the study. Dr Louie expressed concern over the children's gambling. 'We were shocked to find that a lot of children are interested in soccer gambling,' Dr Louie said. He said the children could easily place bets through adults such as older peers or even parents. 'Parents should also set a good model for their children, such as refusing to take bets from their children,' he said. Dr Louie criticised the government of overlooking the risk of gambling addiction occurring in children. 'Children are easily tempted to bet because soccer is such a popular sport in Hong Kong,' he said. 'Soccer, which is supposed to be a healthy activity, may now be turned into a gambling tool among young students. 'The problem could become even more serious if the government fails to address the issue promptly, such as providing special trainings for teachers to provide students with proper guidance. 'The government should not completely rely on social workers to handle all teenage problems.' Dr Louie also said parents should guide their children on how they should schedule their time to watch games during the examination period. In the City Forum yesterday, principal secretary for home affairs Jenny Yip Kam-ching said she had not seen evidence of widespread soccer gambling on the first two days of the World Cup. Ms Yip said the Home Affairs Department would continue its public education on anti-gambling in both the community and schools.