SCMP Thursday, September 27, 2001

Youth gambling problem 'twice previous estimate'


Almost twice as many Hong Kong youngsters are hooked on gambling than was previously thought, according to a new survey.
The survey found that 4.9 per cent of 1,099 secondary school students aged 11 to 20 showed strong signs of pathological gambling. The study was carried out by City University's applied social studies department in July.
The warning signs included missing lessons to take part in gambling, stealing valuables to place bets, failing to settle debts resulting from gambling, and refusing to stop gambling until losses were recovered.
A government-commissioned survey released by Polytechnic University earlier this month concluded that only 2.6 per cent of 4,000 youths interviewed were pathological gamblers.
The percentage of young pathological gamblers in Western countries is about 5.7 per cent.
John Tse Wing-ling, an associate professor at City University, said the government-sponsored survey underestimated the gambling problem among young people. "The problem is rather serious and will get worse if soccer gambling is legalised," he said.
Professor Tse said government revenue could not be used as a justification for legalising football gambling.
The City University survey also found that 9.3 per cent of 959 respondents were at risk of pathological gambling. Forty two per cent of these young gamblers would bet on football if it was legalised. In addition, 15 per cent of the respondents classified as non-pathological gamblers said they would bet on football.
The survey also found that more than a half of the addicted gamblers would place bets more than once a week and spend most time on mahjong, poker and illegal football gambling.
Leung Fu-wah, a legislator and deputy chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions, said he did not object to the legalisation of football gambling and believed it would have little negative impact on youngsters.
"My view is that soccer gambling has existed for a long time and could not be suppressed. Legalising it would allow it to be conducted under proper supervision," he said. "I don't think young people would be seriously affected."
"Even without soccer gambling, some of them have turned into pathological gamblers already under our education and social system which gives them no ideals and direction."
The Government's public consultation exercise into the possible legalisation of football gambling is due to conclude on October 5.