Illegal gambling problem in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Government Policy is to restrict gambling, other than social gambling, to a limited number of controlled authorised outlets. In this way, while the public demand for gambling is met, regulation ensures that gambling opportunities are not excessive and possible harm to the community is minimized. According to the Gambling Ordinance (Cap. 148), all gambling activities are illegal except those authorised by the Government which includes authorised horse racing, football betting and Mark Six lottery, and betting premises licenced by the Government or those exempted under the Ordinance.

The illegal gambling market is sizeable and growing exponentially. During the World Cup 2014, the Hong Kong Police Force mounted vigorous operations in the territory against illegal gambling activities, resulting in seizure of cash and betting slips amounting to more than HK$750 million, a record high.

Increasing junket activities and illegal web betting

Illegal gambling operators and their agents (or junkets) have becoming increasingly aggressive and active in Hong Kong. Junkets not only offer incentives and loans for gamblers, but also provide ferry tickets and hotel accommodations for their customers to gamble at offshore casinos or casino cruises. Offshore operators are also increasingly deploying loyalty programmes to recruit new and young customers which poses a serious threat to Hong Kong.

Profit-oriented illegal bookmakers lure customers with credit betting, better price incentives, and more bet types, irrespective of their age and financial status. By offering discounts and loans, they encourage customers to chase losses, resulting in heavy gambling debts. Round the clock gambling opportunities provided by illegal operators often lead customers to bet instantly and continuously, making them more prone to excessive gambling.

Fuelled by the advancement of mobile technology and widespread use of smartphones and tablet computers, illegal gambling platforms are more readily available to the public in recent years. A study tracking web traffic found that at least 230,000 local residents patronise illegal gambling websites each month. The betting loss incurred each year is estimated at HK$12 billion, which is equivalent to 60% of the Government’s Community Care Fund. Should the money be ploughed back to society, Hong Kong people can benefit enormously from the provision of 17,000 additional public housing units, 100 secondary schools and close to 300 elderly homes.

The amount of wagers Hong Kong people placed with illegal bookmakers tops hundreds of billions of dollars each year, which is double the HK$150 billion recorded by the authorised betting channels. This growing trend also aggravates the numerous social and criminal problems and activities it brings to the community.

Illegal gambling in Hong Kong:

HK people lose HK$12 billion in illegal market each year
Widely associated with criminal activities
Traditional bookies have moved to the web
More prone to problem gambling
Siphoning of Hong Kong public resources

Harms of illegal gambling

Illegal gambling is widely associated with criminal activities, in particular loan-sharking, money laundering, fraud and corruption.

Equally if not more damaging is the siphoning of public resources from the community. Illegal gambling operations neither pay tax in Hong Kong, nor make any contribution to Hong Kong charities.

In contrast, the Club is committed to providing regulated legal betting services to help the Government in combating illegal gambling in accordance with the Government’s Policy to restrict gambling to a limited number of controlled authorised outlets. Being a pioneer in responsible gambling practices, the Club implements a wide range of measures to encourage those who gamble to do so responsibly and to prevent underage gambling. It endeavours to strike a balance between meeting the demand for gambling while helping to minimise potential harm caused by gambling.