SCMP Saturday, June 23, 2001

Government paves way for legalising soccer gambling


Updated at 6.48pm:
The Government revealed at the launch of a gambling review consultation paper on Friday that the SAR should be ready to legalise soccer betting in time for next year's World Cup.
Speaking at the occasion, Secretary for Home Affairs Lam Woon-kwong said illegal soccer betting was on the rise and he expected a ''sharp rise'' when the next World Cup approached.
''Illegal soccer betting has mushroomed since the '98 World Cup and it pushes the Government to seek a more active stance - that's why we are here today- we have to step in before the social problem becomes out of control,'' he said.
The consultation period will last three months and Mr Lam said if the response was positive it would be tabled at Legco. Local media, quoting an anonymous government source, said that the decision would be made in time for next the World Cup.
''More than $2.6 billion was seized last year alone in soccer betting, five times more than the $57,900,000 seized in the last World Cup,'' he said.
''If the figure is already so huge in a relative quiet year, we expect a sharp rise when next World Cup is held in 2002,'' he said.
An estimated 120,000 to 340,000 population were engaged in gambling activities and it amounted to an annual loss of $200 billion in revenue, the consultation paper said.
''It shows there is a sufficiently large and persistemt demand for that type of gambling,'' he said.