SCMP Monday, June 18, 2001

'Neutral' stance ahead of paper's release


The Government is adopting a neutral position on legalising soccer gambling ahead of the consultation paper's release this week.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lam Woon-kwong said yesterday his bureau was still collecting views on the issue for inclusion in the consultation paper, to provide a reference point for public debate.
"We will stay objective and make a decision only after carefully assessing the views of the public," Mr Lam said. The consultation will not draw a conclusion on whether soccer gambling should be legalised but will list options on how the issue should be dealt with.
A senior government official said it would be difficult to discuss the moral aspects of soccer gambling as some people would have firm views.
The official said the administration would not decide at this stage whether a profits tax instead of betting duty would be imposed on soccer gambling operators.
"It will be a matter to be decided by the Finance Bureau. We will discuss only the principle first," the official said.
Suggestions have been made that the imposition of a profits tax would provide greater incentives for operators to set up.
The Government has studied soccer gambling in Singapore, which allows betting on local soccer matches. That might be inappropriate for the SAR as these matches are poorly attended.
A Home Affairs Bureau survey of the local gambling culture will be released in August.