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LCQ12: Preventive and remedial measures for gambling-related problems


Following is a question by the Hon Bernard Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho, in the Legislative Council today (November 24):


It has been reported that since the authorisation and regulation of soccer betting last year, the number of persons participating in gambling has been on a rising trend, and the problem of gambling among adolescents has also aroused public concern. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of requests for assistance received by the counselling and treatment centres set up by the Ping Wo Fund for problem and pathological gamblers since they began operation last October, and among the persons requesting for assistance, how many were pathological gamblers, with the figures broken down by the sex of the persons requesting assistance and whether they were youth or otherwise;

(b) among those requesting assistance, of the number of those who have received counselling and treatment from the above centres and the counselling period involved, and how many of them relapsed after recovery; and

(c) whether it will allocate additional resources to those centres and consider providing more counselling and treatment services for problem and pathological gamblers?


Madam President,

My reply to the questions is as follows:

The Government set up the Ping Wo Fund in September 2003 to finance preventive and remedial measures for addressing gambling-related problems. The remedial measures include the establishment of two dedicated centres for providing counselling and treatment services to problem and pathological gamblers on a pilot basis. The two centres commenced operation in October 2003. The services being provided include telephone help-line service seeking to provide general service information, initial telephone counselling and self-help information; face-to-face counselling, group therapy and referral services; as well as psychiatric and medical treatment.

From October 2003 to September 2004, the two centres received a total of 4,360 requests for assistance, mainly through their telephone help-line service. The actual number of persons requiring help is not available as the callers are not required to disclose their identity through the telephone.

During the same period, a total of 1,097 gamblers received counselling and treatment services at the two centres. Of these gamblers, 782 persons were classified as probable pathological gamblers and 104 persons as probable problem gamblers, on the basis of validated screening tools for pathological gambling. Among those classified as probable pathological gamblers, 704 were male, 78 were female, and 37 were 25 years old or below.

The average counselling period for each counselling and treatment case is around five months. As of Septemeber 30, 2004, 192 cases have been closed upon the gamblers' abstinence from their problematic gambling behaviour after receiving the counselling and treatment services. Among these successful cases, one gambler was found to have relapsed 6 months after cessation of treatment.

We have commissioned the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to monitor and review the effectiveness of the services provided by the two centres, with a view to recommending how best to provide such services in Hong Kong on a long-term basis. Having regard to the outcome of this review, we would consider whether we should, and if so, how best to provide additional resources to the two centres or provide more counselling and treatment services for problem and pathological gamblers in Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, November 24, 2004


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