Anti-gambling activists have threatened legal action against the Jockey Club over its unprecedented practice of allowing children to attend daytime race meetings at the Sha Tin racecourse. They accuse the Jockey Club of trying to 'lure' young people into gambling and claim such a move may have breached the club's licensing conditions. But the club argued yesterday that it aimed to show children the positive aspects of horse racing. A dozen representatives from Hong Kong Gambling Watch, a coalition of about 10 local anti-gambling groups, rallied outside the club's headquarters in Happy Valley. Waving placards and shouting slogans, the protesters urged the government to step in to halt the Jockey Club's move, saying the practice was against the administration's anti-gambling policy. At the centre of the row is the club's new arrangement for children to attend daytime race meetings at the Sha Tin racecourse from the new racing season, starting tomorrow. The club said the move was in response to requests by racehorse owners, whose support had helped 'Hong Kong's racing industry to achieve the high international reputation that it has'. The club also said there would be measures to prevent children from placing bets or accessing betting counters. But coalition convenor Reverend Wu Chi-wai said: 'The racecourse is never a place for family day activities when race meetings are under way. Children can easily become addicted to gambling if they often follow their parents to the races.' Reverend Wu also said it was a licensing condition that the club should not allow minors to enter venues where bets were accepted. 'We may consider taking the case to the courts if the club does allow children to attend the Sunday meetings,' he said. The coalition urged the government to step in or it would step up its protests. The Jockey Club is the only authorised operator of horse racing. Similar family fun day arrangements were made in 1999 to mark the new millennium and in 2004 for National Day, events that also drew criticism from anti-gambling groups. In a statement, the Jockey Club said yesterday that many horse owners wanted their children to be allowed to go to race meetings to share the enjoyment of seeing their family's horse compete. The club said their requests were 'reasonable and legitimate', and it would be unreasonable to 'ignore the strong urging of its racehorse owners'. The club also said children were allowed onto racecourses in many countries including Japan, Australia, the United States and Britain. 'There is no evidence in these countries that allowing minors to enter racecourses leads to underage gambling,' the club said. The Home Affairs Bureau, which is in charge of gambling policy, said it was satisfied with the club's arrangements to prevent children from placing bets and thus the club was not violating the licensing conditions. A spokeswoman said the bureau would monitor the situation and review the arrangements with the club if needed.