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2018-03-22 HKT 13:21
With just under three months to go before the start of the 2018 World Cup, the Hong Kong government's been urged to raise the city's legal minimum age for gambling from 18 to 21, to discourage young people from betting on the football matches.
The Caritas Addicted Gambling Counselling Centre warned on Thursday that many people are likely to get their first taste of gambling during the tournament.
The charity said there was a 30 percent surge in the number of people turning to its social workers for help with gambling-related issues immediately after the last World Cup in 2014.
The centre’s spokesman, Alfred Chan, said the competition is one of the most common reasons for young people to start gambling, and the administration should increase the legal minimum age for gambling to mitigate the effects of the tournament.
"We think that the World Cup is a very big issue .... we are always concerned that a number of people start their gambling during the World Cup and if the problem continues, we will predict the number of people becoming addicted will increase," Chan said.
The centre said a survey it carried out earlier this year involving 830 students at tertiary institutions found that around half had a gambling habit. Of the gamblers, around 70 percent liked to play the Mark Six, while 22 percent said they had placed bets on football matches. Some admitted the World Cup was likely to increase their desire to gamble.
The centre said one 23-year-old who had asked it for help had run up gambling debts totalling HK$200,000 over a nine-month period.
The charity said more than 300 people under the age of 25 had sought assistance at its centre since 2003.