SCMP Saturday, September 15, 2001

Educators losing gambling battle


Schools can do little to stop gambling spreading among students, educators claim as a Government consultation on legalising soccer betting nears its end.
The Government hopes to make billions of dollars in taxes each year through the legislation and gain control of increasingly prevalent Internet betting.
The three-month consultation on the proposal ends on Friday. But a coalition of 49 educational and other organisations has collected more than 3,000 signatures from teachers who oppose the idea. It has requested a meeting with Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung next week and will stage another signature campaign at Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Causeway Bay and Sha Tin today, coinciding with a protest march planned by the Christian Anti-Soccer Gambling Alliance.
The consultation paper said it could be more effective to foster a "responsible attitude towards gambling" among youths to discourage them from the habit. It called on schools to include the issue in moral education lessons.
Radio Television Hong Kong, according to the paper, has also been commissioned to produce programmes instilling positive values among students.
Wong Hak-lim, spokesman for the coalition and president of the Professional Teachers' Union organisation committee, said it was ridiculous that the Government was seeking to legalise soccer betting on the one hand while calling on schools to prevent youths from falling prey to gambling on the other.
Schools would have no time to devote to anti-gambling campaigns given the already packed curriculum, he said.
"They need to carry out all sorts of educational programmes like sex, environmental protection, civic and media education. There are also the new subjects of IT and Putonghua."
Principal of Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School, Lawrence Lour Tsang-tsay, cast doubt on the use of school education programmes. He said schools were already losing the battle against drug abuse and smoking. "The age of smokers has come down. The media and pop culture have a lot more effect on youths than us." He agreed that the legalisation proposal contradicted traditional notions of hard work and that it would also be difficult to ensure that young people were not exposed to gambling.
"They are forbidden from going to the racecourse but you cannot tell whether they bet online or not," he said.
He believes that more than 90 per cent of schools oppose legalised soccer gambling.