SCMP Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Churches unite against soccer betting


Campaigners hope to mobilise hundreds of thousands of Christians to protest against any move to legalise soccer betting.
General-secretary of the Church Renewal Movement, Reverend Wu Chi-wai, said the Christian Anti-Soccer Gambling Alliance would ask 300,000 members from 1,200 local Protestant churches to back the campaign.
The alliance has also pledged to carry out an e-mail and letter campaign targeting the Home Affairs Bureau to reflect its views. A rally was planned for September 15, Mr Wu said. "We will show our anger towards gambling during the rally. The 1,200 churches include different schools and branches. On this issue, our views are united," he said.
Choi Chi-sum, general-secretary of the Society for Truth and Light, which is part of the alliance, said the Government's recently released consultation paper was "biased and incomplete".
"It lacks convincing evidence and scientific research to support the arguments for legalising soccer betting. The Government doesn't tell the public how much damage football betting brings to our community," he said.
Mr Choi also blamed the media for helping to promote soccer betting. "Some sports stories bluntly encourage people to bet on football. They give tips and odds on every match. The sports pages of some newspapers read more like a gambling newspaper."
He called on the Government to regulate what he called "illegal news reporting".
Mr Choi said legalising football betting would increase the number of compulsive gamblers. "Their number in Hong Kong increased a lot from the '70s onwards after the Government legalised horse-race betting."
Mr Wu said legalising football betting would demoralise the education sector and make it difficult for teachers to convince students gambling was bad.
"Legalising football betting endorses it morally, that makes it very difficult for teachers," he said.
Woo Kam-wing, spokesman for the Inter-College Christian Fellowship, said a poll it conducted showed more than 60 per cent of undergraduates were against legalisation. "Our study also shows that people aged 15 to 17 are specially vulnerable."