Soccer betting won't be facing any penalties after lawmakers kicked it into lawful play yesterday.
But it was a tense "match" in the Legislative Council yesterday as the third reading was netted by a narrowed margin of 30-24 compared with 33-25 for the second reading on Wednesday.
They voted in favour of the passage of amendments to the Betting Duty Ordinance.
The government will grant a five-year franchise to the Hong Kong Jockey Club as the only authorized soccer betting operator so that it can receive soccer bets as early as August.
The government projects that the betting will earn some HK$1.5 billion (US$192 million) a year in extra tax revenue.
Acknowledging the concerns of critics, officials said some of the cash will go to raising public awareness about the social ills caused by gambling addiction.
In order not to mix up soccer with its racing and charity businesses, the jockey club will set up a subsidiary to handle soccer betting operations.
Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho expressed relief after the law was passed yesterday, particularly because all the amendments moved by the government were adopted.
To gain support from legislators, the government agreed to a number of amendments to the original bill after hearing views during the bills committee stage.
For example, public education programmes will be launched to warn people not to be addicted to gambling.
(China Daily July 11, 2003)