LCQ14: Amusement game with prizes and adolescent gambling

     Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, in the Legislative Council today (June 27):


     Some members of the public have earlier relayed to me that quite a number of games machines with gambling games are installed in amusement game centres (AGCs) for persons who have attained the age of 16 years.  It has even been reported recently that the "gambling culture" has spread to family entertainment centres (FECs) (commonly known as "children's paradise") in various districts in Hong Kong, since roulettes and slot machines installed in many FECs have attracted quite a number of primary and secondary students to stay there for "gambling" after school.  The reports have even pointed out that some FECs have "conversion" mechanism in place under which bonus points won in games may be converted not only into prizes but also into cash, which is similar to the situation in casinos.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective criteria adopted by the Government at present in vetting and approving applications for AGC licences and FEC licences; whether on-site inspections are conducted in vetting and approving these applications; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the Police or authorized officers from government departments carry out annual inspections of FECs in various districts; if they do, of the number of such inspections;

(c) whether the Police or the government departments concerned had received complaints against AGCs and FECs in the past three years; if they had, of a breakdown by type of complaints and district;

(d) given that under the existing requirements, the licensing authority will not give approval to the installation or placing of roulettes or slot machines in premises issued with Amusements with Prizes Licences, whether the Police or the government departments concerned had instituted prosecutions in the aforesaid cases in the past three years; if they had, of the numbers of such prosecutions in various districts;

(e) given that under the existing legislation, no bet shall be wagered or paid at FECs but the aforesaid reports have pointed out that in some FECs, bonus points may be converted into cash, whether the Police or the government departments concerned have received any complaint in this regard, if they have, of the number of such complaints and the penalties;

(f) whether AGCs and FECs may provide prizes in the form of cash coupons issued by supermarkets; if they may, whether the Government has considered reviewing the relevant legislation; and

(g) whether it knows the number of local institutions conducting counselling service on adolescent gambling and the types of service they provide; of the annual number of cases in which counselling had been provided by these institutions on adolescent gambling in the past three years?



(a) When handling a licence application, the Office of the Licensing Authority (OLA) under the Home Affairs Department will, in accordance with the requirements of the Amusement Game Centres Ordinance (Cap 435), examine the appropriateness for the licence applicant to operate an amusement game centre (AGC).  OLA will also inspect the proposed place to ensure that it is suitable for the operation of an AGC.  In respect of the types of amusement game machines, the licence conditions stipulate that amusement game machines that contravene the Gambling Ordinance (Cap 148) shall not be installed in any AGCs, and only those amusement game machines approved by OLA may be installed in AGCs "for persons under the age of 16 years".  No prizes, cash awards or cash refund shall be given in relation to the playing of any game, and no bet shall be wagered or paid at any AGCs.

     Separately, holders of a Places of Public Entertainment Licence may apply to OLA for Amusements with Prizes Licence (AWPL) in accordance with the Gambling Ordinance to conduct games of amusement with prizes in places commonly known as the "Family Entertainment Centres" (hereinafter referred to as "places with AWPL").  OLA will approve the games in accordance with the licence conditions.  Key conditions include licence holders shall not provide games with gambling elements in the licensed places, except for the AWPL games approved by the OLA, and no prize offered shall be a money prize.

(b) The Police conducts inspections of places with AWPL from time to time in accordance with the Gambling Ordinance to ensure that the licensees have complied with the licence conditions in their operations.  The time and frequency of such inspections depend on the past non-compliance records and relevant reports of the places concerned.  Generally speaking, the inspection frequency for each place would not be less than once a year.

(c) Details of the complaints received by OLA against the places with AWPL over the past three years are at Annex 1.

(d) Upon receipt of reports relating to a licensed place, the Police will carry out inspections and conduct joint operations with OLA as necessary to ascertain whether the business of the place concerned is conducted in accordance with the relevant licence conditions.  If unauthorised amusements with prizes machines are used at the place, or the mode of operation may contravene the conditions of AWPL issued under the Gambling Ordinance, the Police will take appropriate enforcement action based on the evidence collected, which may include issuing advice, warnings or instituting prosecutions in accordance with the Gambling Ordinance.  The Police have instituted prosecutions under the above-mentioned situations in the past but have not kept prosecution figures separately.

(e) During the period between January 1 and May 31, 2012, OLA had received a total of four complaints about places with AWPL that offered direct conversion of token money won in games into cash.  According to the Gambling Ordinance, any AWPL licensee who contravenes the licence conditions commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for two years.

(f) As mentioned in (a) above, an AWPL licensee should not offer any cash award.  We will closely monitor the development and situation of the existing regulatory framework for the places with AWPL.

(g) We understand that quite a number of non-governmental organisations are offering various kinds of counselling and support services for tackling the gambling problems among young people.

     The Ping Wo Fund established by the Government in 2003 is currently financing four counselling and treatment centres for problem and pathological gamblers.  The centres mainly provide hotline counselling, face-to-face counselling and other professional treatment services.  Their service targets include young people.  The overall number of cases handled by the four centres is at Annex 2.

Ends/Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:19