SCMP Saturday, June 23, 2001


Morals warning over soccer betting

ANTOINE SO

Anti-gambling activists yesterday outlined their campaign to oppose any attempt to legalise soccer betting, claiming it would trigger a "crisis of morals", particularly among the young.
Members of the Alliance Against the Legalisation of Soccer Gambling described the suggestion that such a move could combat illegal betting as "nothing short of nonsense".
Alliance convenor Wong Hak-lim said the group's members would lobby lawmakers and hold public signature campaigns against the move.
The group would also seek a meeting with Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Secretary for Home Affairs Lam Woon-kwong to discuss their fears.
Preliminary contacts with lawmakers showed that a majority opposed legalisation, Mr Wong said, although some were still undecided.
"We will mount our campaign, and the first battlefield is the legislature," he said.
"We hope we will have legislators' support for our cause."
The alliance has so far collected more than 3,000 signatures against legalisation and plans to hold large-scale signature campaigns over the next three months.
Students will also be able to signal their opposition when the alliance holds a series of seminars and campaigns in schools.
Mr Wong condemned the consultation exercise as a fraud, saying the Government had been steering the public towards legalisation by providing an unbalanced document.
"There's hardly any mention of how legalisation would adversely affect social norms and morality," Mr Wong said.
Peter Tang Siu-hung, a member of the Hong Kong Subsidised Primary School Heads' Association, which forms part of the alliance, attacked the government argument that legalising soccer betting could help to combat illegal gambling.
"Even if there is a legal channel for people to bet on soccer, there will be others who would gamble with bookmakers, just like horse racing now," Mr Tang said.
Mr Tang and another alliance member, Szeto Hon-ming, warned that if soccer gambling were legalised, Hong Kong parents and teachers would have to face an even bigger challenge in the teaching of morals to young people.
"Every day, teachers and parents spend so much effort telling children what's right and what's wrong.
That could be offset overnight if the Government legalises soccer gambling," Mr Tang said.
"How are we going to tell children gambling is not correct when the Government allows more and more of it in society?" he asked.
Mr Szeto said the Government had also contradicted itself by claiming soccer gambling had become so popular that legalisation was now necessary.
He pointed out that copyright piracy had also grown in popularity but said the Government was not about to legalise it.
"The rationale behind [government thinking on piracy] is that it's a bad thing and it should be prevented, like young people abusing drugs and mistress-keeping on the mainland. Is the Government now saying they should also be legalised?"

The Hong Kong Council of Social Service said legalisation would fuel people's wish for "fast money" and undermine efforts to nurture positive values in the younger generation.