Underage gambling is a global concern. Studies in other countries generally show that more than half of secondary school students have gambled for money in the previous year (involving all forms of gambling, in particular social gambling, lotteries, betting on sports and casino games).
There is a strong association between underage gambling and illegal gambling. Underage persons are vulnerable to thousands of illegal and offshore gambling websites readily available online, many of which are not regulated by law and do not have any age control. Many even provide loans to lure young people to gamble.
Hong Kong being an advanced digital city also increases the chance of young people coming into contact with illegal gambling opportunities. Hong Kong people have the highest mobile internet usage rate in the Asia Pacific region, amongst them many are students. A study conducted in 2013 found that 90% of students were using smartphones and nearly half spent over three hours on smartphones each day. In other words, they have easy access to illegal gambling activities through their smartphones anytime, anywhere. It is worth noting that another study tracking web traffic of illegal gambling websites found that about 10,000 underage persons visited and patronised these websites out of a total of more than 200,000 in Hong Kong.
Recognising the far-reaching repercussions of this problem, countries around the world are proactively analysing the causes behind underage gambling and its possible association with problem gambling, in the hope of devising effective measures to mitigate the problem. Many of these studies suggested that the age of gambling initiation is only one of the factors for gambling addiction.
In fact, numerous researches have shown that many risk factors are at play including peer and family influence, a person’s natural propensity to gamble, the person’s mental state (whether he/she has depression traits) and school performances etc.
As such, most countries set the minimum age for betting at 18, the same as the legal age limit for other adult activities. This is founded on the widely-accepted belief that people aged 18 and above are mature enough and capable of deciding on their own accord whether to vote, get married, smoke, drink and gamble etc.
By the same token, the World Lottery Association prescribes 18 as the recommended legal gambling age in its responsible gambling guideline. Watching sports is universally popular amongst young adults, the Association believed that raising the age limit will only benefit the illegal operators who can take advantage of this to attract more young patrons. Worst still, the Internet-based operation of these bookmakers makes it even more difficult for proper Government regulation and strict law enforcement.
Being a socially responsible betting service operator, the Club rigorously abides by a Responsible Gambling Policy. Stringent access controls are enforced at the Club’s two racecourse, all Off-Course Betting Branches and betting websites, underlining its commitment to prevent underage gambling.