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The Increasing Problem of Addiction and Youth Gambling in Hong Kong

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The accessibility provided by technology has opened up a can of worms in youth gambling, where more and more minors can access online gambling sites. However, even though all forms of gambling are not legal in Hong Kong, the gambling problem among its youth is rising.

Hong Kong, like Mainland China, has outlawed most forms of gambling. Although, many from the former British colony still enjoy gambling and 81% of adults have gambled in the past year.

However, as the number of adults gambling increases, the figures for youth gambling in Hong Kong have also drastically increased over the years.

Youth gambling in Hong Kong on the rise

Studies into youth gambling in Hong Kong have been going on for a while, and it looks like it’s becoming a problem that shows no sign of going away.

While the adult gambling figures in Hong Kong sits at 81%, some stats show that youngsters under the age of 21 who are addicted to gambling, especially sports betting, sits at the hefty percentage of 82%.

The Ping Wo Fund, a charitable body set up to help the problem gamblers in Hong Kong funded a study by the Polytechnic University to interview a group of teens under 18 to find out more about their gambling activities.

The results showed that at least 40% of those in the sample had gambled, with a third of the group saying that they had began gambling from the age of, or before, 10.

While sports betting was one of the most popular past time for Hong Kong’s youth, it appears that more and more are turning to the internet as a platform for gambling, where only 20% were going to the Jockey Club betting shops.

Soccer might be a popular sport for the youths of Hong Kong to bet on, but other games that are popular include Mahjong and cards.

The number of kids gambling and betting in Hong Kong has been a problem that’s been escalating over the years, where the World Cup highlighted the problem back in 2010.

World Cup betting reveals youth gambling

Youth gambling facts:

• 96% of adult recovering gamblers said they started gambling at the age of 14.

• More than 12% of American males aged 14 to 22 play cards for money at least once per week.

• Internet users 12 to 24 years old in China, South Korea and Taiwan will have tried online games at least once.

The last World Cup game showed Spain beating the Netherlands, and while it was a street party in Spain, in Hong Kong it revealed a more serious problem.

Another study examined the issue of youth gambling and found that a significant portion of youths had placed bets on the World Cup, with 43% of minors stating it was their first time gambling.

Hong Kong gambling laws place restrictions on gambling for those who are under 18 in Hong Kong, where the only legal agent that is to accept football bets is the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

For this reason, a survey carried out by the New Hope Fellowship and the Truth and Light Society found that 28% of gambling youngsters had placed their bets through their parents and relatives.

Because there is the risk that minors are more likely to become addicted to gambling than their adult counterparts, those at the New Hope Fellowship have asked the Hong Kong leaders to take note of gambling that is taking place among the minors.

Other concerns were that betting during the World Cup would act as a gateway for further gambling activities.

However, it looks like the gambling problem has only worsened with the rise of online accessibility to gambling sites, which has opened a new problem area for young gamblers.

The online gambling risk

Gambling online has the advantage of anonymity and since online gambling sites in Hong Kong and abroad are now in easy reach for teens, the problem is unlikely to go away soon.

“Some teenagers log onto gambling sites in Macau or on the mainland without difficulty and pay with credit cards,” says Yau Wing-Kwong, who is the chairman of the Ping Wo Fund Advisory Committee, “It becomes risky when they lay heavier and heavier bets.”

With the increased usage of smartphones, mobile casinos and betting is in easier reach for young gamers. Not to mention it’s much harder to trace the identity of internet gamblers.

Age restrictions might be made in actual bookmakers and casinos, but unless it becomes harder for underage players to log into online gambling sites, the problem is likely to worsen. So what kind of measures can be taken to solve the issue?

Potential solutions and measures

In order to tackle the issue of youth gambling in Hong Kong, a number of counseling services have been set up to help out minors with gambling addictions.

The Lutheran Social Service Center has been tracking gamblers via messages that they have been leaving on online forums and have reached out to them with advice to help them overcome their betting problems.

Even though there is an age restriction on young gamblers, which is 18, worrying numbers showing a 30% increase over the past decade point to serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Gambling councilors believe that the rising number come from the increase in betting options, and feel that the licensed bookmaker The Jockey Clubshould take responsibility for their actions.

However, despite charitable organizations accusing The Jockey Club of making the problem worse, they have been funding a number of gambling addiction centers and programs.

One other proposal to combat the issue is to raise the legal gambling age from 18 to 21.
“The government should life the minimum gambling age from 18 to 21 in order to prevent young people from gambling at a young age,” said Wong Yuk-ming, director of Yuk Lai Hin Gambling Counselling Centre of Zion Social Service.

Another measure, Wong suggests, is that the government should focus on strengthening public education and focus on the effects gambling can have.

Many who work in the treatment of Hong Kong’s gambling addicted youth feel that only drastic measures will solve the issue.

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