Gambling (Amendment) Ordinance 2002
IntroductionTo combat unauthorized cross-border gambling and the related promotional activities in Hong Kong, the Administration introduced a Gambling (Amendment) Bill 2000 to the Legislative Council on 22 November 2000. The Bill was passed by the Legislative Council on 22 May 2002 and became the Gambling (Amendment) Ordinance 2002 (the Amendment Ordinance), which came into operation on 31 May 2002. This note sets out the background to and the major provisions of the Amendment Ordinance.
2. The Government's long-standing gambling policy is to restrict gambling opportunities to a limited number of authorized and regulated outlets only. The rationale behind this policy is two-fold:
a) Whilst it would not be practicable to prohibit gambling altogether, allowing gambling to be conducted in an uncontrolled and unregulated manner would give rise to a host of social problems and provide a lucrative source of income for triad and criminal activities. It is thus a balanced approach to allow only authorized and regulated gambling to take place.
b) Since it is impossible to reconcile the differences in the community regarding the extent to which authorized and regulated gambling outlets should be allowed to exist, it is a compromise approach to allow only a limited number of authorized outlets in Hong Kong. The main purpose of these outlets is to satisfy substantial and persistent public demand for gambling which would otherwise turn to illegal operators, hence giving rise to serious social and law and order problems.
In a nutshell, our established gambling policy strikes a balance between the need to meet the demand for gambling and the need to minimize the negative impact of gambling. This policy is generally supported by the public as revealed by the results of the public consultation on the Gambling Review in 2001. The policy is underpinned by the Gambling Ordinance (Cap. 148) which stipulates that all gambling activities are illegal unless expressly exempted under the Ordinance (mainly social gambling not conducted by way of trade or business), licensed by the Commissioner of Television and Entertainment Licensing (such as mahjong parlours), or authorized under the Betting Duty Ordinance (betting on horse racing run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Mark Six run by the Hong Kong Lotteries Board).
3. The need for legislative amendments stems from the mounting challenges to our gambling policy posed by the proliferation of cross-border gambling activities and the related activities in Hong Kong in the few years prior to the enactment of the Amendment Ordinance. Specifically, an increasing number of unauthorized offshore bookmakers took bets from people in Hong Kong through IDD and the Internet. Some of them even openly and extensively promoted their business and offered betting-related services such as taking betting deposits in Hong Kong. The use of modern telecommunications technology had made it almost equally convenient for anyone in Hong Kong to bet with these offshore bookmakers as with any other local unauthorized bookmakers. An offshore bookmaker could take bets from punters in Hong Kong as easily as could a local bookmaker. Prior to the amendments, the Gambling Ordinance, which was first drafted in the 1970s, might not be adequate to deal with these activities which contain an extraterritorial element. If prompt actions were not taken, such activities would grow rapidly and the policy to restrict gambling opportunities to limited authorized outlets would be rendered largely ineffective.
Major provisions of the Amendment Ordinance
4. The Amendment Ordinance contains the following major amendments to the original Gambling Ordinance:
(a) Section 7 of the Gambling Ordinance has been amended to make it clear that engaging in unauthorized bookmaking outside Hong Kong is illegal, as long as the bet is placed from Hong Kong;
(b) Section 8 of the Ordinance has been amended to make it clear that betting in Hong Kong with an unauthorized bookmaker is illegal, even if the bet is received outside Hong Kong;
(c) Section 16B has been added to make it illegal for any person to knowingly promote or facilitate unlawful gambling;
(d) Section 16A has been added to make it illegal for any person to knowingly operate any premises for promoting or facilitating unlawful gambling;
(e) Section 16C has been added to set out the acts which are regarded as “promoting or facilitating” unlawful gambling for the purpose of sections 16A and 16B. These include dissemination of advertisements and provisions of various betting-related services;
(f) Section 16D has been added to make it illegal for any person, as owner or tenant or person in charge of any premises, to knowingly permit or suffer such premises to be used for promoting or facilitating unlawful gambling; and
(g) Section 16E has been added to prohibit broadcast via TV or radio any odds or tip relating to a horse or dog race, on which betting has not been authorized in Hong Kong, during the 12-hour period before the conduct of that race.
A non-exhaustive list of activities which have become unlawful after the Amendment Ordinance came into operation is at Annex. The amended Gambling Ordinance can be viewed at the Department of Justice's website at http://www.justice.gov.hk/Home.htm.
Home Affairs Bureau
Acts which are Prohibited
by the Gambling (Amendment) Ordinance 2002