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LCQ9: Measures to facilitate development of billiard sports
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Fok and a written reply by the Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):

     According to section 22C of the Places of Amusement Regulation (Cap. 132BA), unless expressly permitted by the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services in writing, the licensee of a billiard establishment shall not permit any person under the age of 16 years to enter the premises between the hours of 8 pm and 10 am, and shall not permit any person in school uniform to enter the premises at any time during the business hours. There are views pointing out that this requirement has limited the participation of young people in the billiard sports and has created the adverse labelling of the billiard sports as undesirable activities, hindering the popularisation and development of the billiard sports. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the details of the law enforcement actions taken by the Government against illegally operated billiard establishments and the number of persons prosecuted in the past two years; the measures in place to strengthen the regulation of licensed billiard establishments, so as to improve the impression given by such premises to people;
(2) whether it will consider relaxing (i) the time limit for young people under 16 years of age to enter and stay in licensed billiard establishments and (ii) the restrictions on the entry of persons wearing school uniforms into licensed billiard establishments; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) given that currently only one sports centre under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department provides English billiard tables for use by members of the public, whether the authorities will provide additional billiard practice and competition facilities, and allocate additional resources to strengthen the existing billiard training programmes for young people; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) whether it will consider streamlining the procedures for licensees of billiard establishments to apply for holding in their billiard establishments events and activities other than those specified in the licences, so as to facilitate organisations to hold competitions or other activities promoting the billiard sports in licensed billiard establishments; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) is responsible for enforcing the Places of Amusement Regulation (Cap. 132 sub. leg. BA) (the Regulation) under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance, including issuing licences for the operation of billiard establishments with four tables or more, public bowling-alleys and public skating rinks, maintaining a comprehensive register of each type of licensed premises, as well as ensuring that the licensees of such establishments comply with the requirements in respect of fire safety, building safety, health and public interest. Currently, there are 49 licensed billiard establishments. My reply to the questions raised by the Hon Kenneth Fok is as follows:
(1) The LCSD is concerned about the unlicensed operation of billiard establishments. The LCSD will launch immediate investigations upon receipt of complaints. In substantiated cases, prosecutions will be taken against the operators. Over the past two years, the LCSD carried out a total of 91 unannounced spot inspections on the premises allegedly involved in unlicensed operation of billiard establishments, of which, one premises was found to be involved in such unlicensed operations. Three individuals were prosecuted successfully. As for the remaining cases, due to varying reasons, including entry denied to the premises in question, premises found to be unattended, premises to have no more than three billiard tables, premises to be under renovation or remain vacant, no unlicensed operations were found or could be further substantiated. Separately, the LCSD has also carried out a total of 619 inspections on licensed billiard establishments, with no irregularities being observed. The LCSD will continue to closely monitor the operations of all licensed billiard establishments in a bid to ensure their compliance with the current legislation to ensure the safety of customers. The LCSD will also monitor the unlicensed operation of billiard establishments, and carry out joint enforcement operations with other relevant law enforcement departments as and when necessary, with a view to stepping up enforcement efforts to curb unlicensed billiard establishments.
(2) Under the Regulation, no person under the age of 16 years shall be permitted to enter the licensed billiard establishments between the hours of 8pm and 10am. In addition, no person in school uniform shall be permitted to enter the licensed premises at any time during the business hours of the licensed premises.
     The LCSD supports young people in participating in billiard sports. Under the current mechanism, if (i) those under the age of 16 need to enter a billiard establishment after 8pm, or (ii) those in school uniform need to enter a billiard establishment to attend billiard competitions or training sessions organised by the national sports associations concerned, the licensees of the billiard establishments may seek exemption of the above restrictions from the LCSD. When submitting the applications, the licensees of the billiard establishments must provide details of the events, personal particulars of those wishing to enter the billiard establishment, and authorisation forms from parents or guardians of those under the age of 16 to the LCSD for vetting. Over the past two years, the LCSD received a total of 11 applications in this regard, all of which were approved.
     As for whether the above restrictions should be relaxed, the government will need to take into account a number of factors, including the need to protect immature persons under the age of 16 and avoid them staying in billiard establishments after 8pm, which will affect their studies and cause adverse effects. Besides, some of the billiard establishments operate mahjong rooms and bars, which may also affect those under the age of 16. The LCSD will continue to handle the relevant exemptions applications in accordance with the current legislation under the principles of promoting billiard sports and facilitating businesses.
(3) To address the public demand for sports and recreation activities, the LCSD has been striving to plan and build a range of sports and recreation facilities. When planning new or improving existing sports facilities, a host of relevant factors will be taken into account, including the current provision of sports facilities at the territory-wide and district levels, the policy objectives of sports development, utilisation rates of existing facilities, demographic changes, the views of the District Councils and stakeholders, site availability, as well as technical feasibility. The LCSD will consider adding new billiard facilities should suitable venues are identified.
     At present, the LCSD provides billiard facilities at Java Road Sports Centre, Ho Man Tin Sports Centre, Lei Yuen Mun Sports Centre, Shun Lee Tsuen Sports Centre, Po Wing Road Sports Centre, Smithfield Sports Centre, Ap Lei Chau Sports Centre, Wo Hing Sports Centre, Aberdeen Tennis and Squash Centre, Sha Tin Jockey Club Public Squash Courts and Sir Denys Roberts Squash Courts in Yuen Long. Among them, the Shun Lee Tsuen Sports Centre provides four English billiard tables. There is no age restriction on using billiard facilities at the venues under the management of the LCSD. 
     To help promote sports development, the LCSD has devised procedures for eligible organisations to make priority bookings of sports and recreation facilities (including billiard facilities) for the purpose of holding sports competitions or events. The District Leisure Services Offices of the LCSD also hold billiard events at various sports centres to allow public participation.
     In addition, the LCSD administers a Sports Subvention Scheme, which provides subvention to the national sports associations for promotion and development of sports in Hong Kong. Subvention is provided on a yearly basis to the Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council (HKBSCC), subject to its submission of the annual programme plans, to support its organisation of various youth billiard training. The LCSD will continue to proactively discuss with the HKBSCC to encourage the latter in organising more billiard events and provide the HKBSCC with financial support in light of the actual needs.
(4) Under the licensing conditions for places of amusement, except with the approval of the LCSD, or as specified in any licence or permit granted by the LCSD, the premises must not be used for any other purposes or class of business. Such being the case, prior approval from the LCSD is required for licensees to use the licensed places of amusement for events or activities not specified in the licence. 
     Billiard activities such as billiard competitions, training classes or fun days organised at billiard establishments are defined neither as any other purpose nor any other class of business. Hence, there is no need for the licensees to submit any applications to the LCSD. That said, for any activities that are not relevant to billiard sports, such as conducting entertainment games and holding opening ceremonies, approval for the non-designated use of the premises must be sought from the LCSD. 
     For the applications for non-designated use of the premises, it takes around 30 working days normally to approve first-time applications upon submission of the required information by licensees. To expedite the approval process, the LCSD has implemented the "Fast Track Application Procedure" (the Procedure) since April 1, 2014 upon reaching a consensus with other relevant government departments. The licensees may submit applications under the Procedure, subject to compliance with the requirements set out in the Annex, in a bid to speed up the processing of their applications for holding events or activities not specified in the licences of their licensed premises. It takes about 20 working days to process the applications under the Procedure. Under normal circumstances, the activities under the applications can be held as scheduled unless insufficient information is submitted or applications are late. We believe that the above arrangement has facilitated relevant organisations in organising activities to promote billiard sports development.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:10
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