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Anne Lindner
 

Hong Kong Law 'Pretty Much a Done Deal'

10 May 2002

Today the Hong Kong Legislative Council (Legco) set May 22 as the date for final consideration of the Gambling (Amendment) Bill.

The bill, which would prohibit offshore bookmakers from taking bets from Hong Kong residents as well as make it illegal for Hong Kong residents to place such bets, is likely to pass, said Rob Deans, a lawyer with the Hong Kong firm Bird & Bird.


"Although the fat lady isn't quite singing yet, she's on the stage and clearing her throat."
-Rob Deans
Bird & Bird

"It's pretty much a done deal," Deans said.

Explaining further, he said, "Although the fat lady isn't quite singing yet, she's on the stage and clearing her throat."

The May 22 reading of the bill is the last chance for the bill to be debated, Deans said. He added that the main political parties in Hong Kong have indicated they will support the bill and that, although there may be a couple of amendments.

The only situation that would prevent the group from hearing the bill on the established date is if something more important needs immediate attention.

The gambling bill has been under consideration by the Bills Committee since November of 2000. In addition to banning the acceptance or placement of an offshore bet, the proposal would make the practice of promoting or facilitating an offshore betting transaction illegal, thereby targeting marketing vendors and payment processors.

The maximum penalty for offshore bookmaking or facilitation of offshore bookmaking would be a fine of HK$5 million and seven years in prison.


"If it is feared excessive gambling might create a social problem, the concern should be addressed by means of a social policy."
-Margaret Ng
Hong Kong Legislator

The bill is controversial in Hong Kong, even though it's expected to pass. Deans said a significant drawback to the proposal is that it does not appear to be well crafted.

"The legislation is ill thought-out and ill conceived," he said. "In some areas it is draconian, in other areas it has loopholes."

Victor Chandler, a bookmaker with presence in the region, held a press conference last week in which it called the bill a charter for triads and illegal bookmakers.

Another drawback of the bill is that it doesn't provide for a mechanism to punish offshore bookmakers. The Legco has been assured that the government won't try to extradite any foreign bookmaker who processes bets for Hong Kong citizens, although it does claim to right to arrest said bookmaker if he or she sets foot in Hong Kong, wrote Margaret Ng in an article published this week in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's main English-language newspaper. Ng, a legislator who represents legal professionals, calls the idea "ridiculous extraterritorial jurisdiction."

"Legco asked how the government intended to monitor the Internet and catch the offenders," Ng wrote. "Not surprisingly, the government had no real answer."

Ng also pointed out that the move to make offshore betting illegal is contradictory to the government's attempts to legalize soccer betting. She called the two policies "inconsistent" and wrote that the only sensible option is to make both types of betting legal, regulated and taxable.

"If it is feared excessive gambling might create a social problem, the concern should be addressed by means of a social policy," she wrote.

Hong Kong Law 'Pretty Much a Done Deal' is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner