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Anne Lindner

Hong Kong to Crack Down on Offshore Betting

19 April 2002

Hong Kong could have a formal ban on offshore Internet betting by the time the World Cup begins in late May.

On April 3, the Legislative Council committee that is considering the Gambling (Amendment) Bill met for the first time since December 2001 to review a number of amendments proposed by the Home Affairs Bureau.

The amendments appear to be designed to fix a number of problems with the bill so that the government has a chance of getting a new law in place within the next few weeks, said Rob Deans, a lawyer with Hong Kong law firm Bird and Bird.

Among the proposals, said Deans, are provisions that would make it illegal for offshore bookmakers to accept bets from Hong Kong punters as well as prohibit Hong Kong bettors from placing offshore bets.

In addition, the bill would make it illegal to promote or facilitate an offshore bet. That provision targets advertising vendors and payment processors, Deans said.

"That's how they're attempting to put teeth into this new legislation," he said.

The bill has been under review by the Bills Committee since November 2000. Once the committee has completed its scrutiny of the bill, the bill must be debated in the full Legislative Council before being passed into law.

The government would like to complete the process by May 31. Achieving this depends on any further delays at the committee stage and the extent to which the bill is debated in the Legislative Council.

Under the proposal, the maximum penalty for bookmaking or promotion or facilitation of bookmaking would be a fine of HK$5 million and seven years in prison.

Deans said there are a number of potential problems with the proposed legislation, particularly in relation to enforcement against offshore entities.

Another concern, he said, is whether the powers available to police to investigate local punters who bet offshore are overly broad.

Deans said although the bill has had a high profile in the Hong Kong press, little lobbying has gone on to date. He expects there will be more lobbying now that the bill has a deadline attached to it. However, he said, interested parties have little time to spare given the current timetable.

The Bills Committee met again April 19 and is next scheduled to meet on April 30.

Hong Kong to Crack Down on Offshore Betting is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner