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Hong Kong Government Wants To Criminalise Overseas Sports Betting

Mary Swire, Tax-News.com, Hong Kong

08 December 2000


The Hong Kong Government wants to criminalise overseas sports betting carried out from the SAR and has proposed an amendment to the Gambling Ordinance which was debated yesterday at a Legco Bills Committee meeting.

The amendment would particularly be targeted at betting on overseas football matches and horse racing - promoting or facilitating such activities would also become unlawful.

However, Democrats on the Committee thought that individual freedom would be unduly restricted by the amendment - visitors to the SAR placing bets with their home bookies or with internet services from their hotel bedrooms would break the law, as would the hotel which 'facilitated' the betting.

Sin Chung-kai, an information technology representative on the Committee, said there was nothing harmful about one bet on a football match overseas via the Internet. "I have great difficulties in endorsing such a bill. I am worried that I might break the law without knowing it," he said.

Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee said that betting on unauthorised gambling was illegal and the amendment only sought to extend the policy to cover overseas activities; shelving the bill would send a negative signal to the public and gambling operators. "We are worried overseas betting would become more blatant if the loophole is not plugged immediately," she said

Illegal or not, sports betting is widely enjoyed in Hong Kong, and the Government is probably powerless to do anything about it, especially when it is on the Internet. The Government is planning a consultation exercise next year on whether gambling on football matches should be allowed; it might as well consult on whether sex should be allowed.

Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, who chaired the meeting, said the amendment would be shelved pending the results of the consultation exercise.

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