Over 90 percent of Hong Kong gamblers who bet on football matches were found to have started laying wagers before the age of 21, a study showed.
According to the Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counselling Centre (CAGCC), an organization that aims to help individuals and families affected by gambling problem, a quarter of the people who were betting regularly on soccer games were found to have owed debts of over HK$200,000.
Citing a study involving 310 gamblers aged 25 or below, CAGCC said it believes there has been a rise in football betting since 2013, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Judging from the number of cases handled by the center in 2014, those related to football betting have surpassed the number of cases related to other forms of gambling, the organization said.
About 99 percent of the cases pertained to male punters, CAGCC said, outlining an analysis of data gathered from October 2003 to May 2017.
Some 3.9 percent of the respondents revealed that they first gambled under the age of ten.
The Hong Kong government legalized football betting in August 2003.
The CAGCC said it is worrying that over ten percent of the cases involved students, Metro Daily Hong Kong reports.
Releasing the findings of the study, the group urged the government to raise the legal age for betting to 21 from 18.
According to Apple Daily, 70 percent of football betting gamblers said they have suffered from emotional stress, while up to 15 percent of the group said they once considered committing suicide.
One of the respondents, a person identified as Ning, who is 26 now, said he first gambled at 16, and has since become ludomaniac.
A transportation worker back then, Ning would spend the lion’s share of his HK$15,000 monthly salary on gambling. He used to splash a few thousand dollars on one bet, and once even bet as much as HK$30,000 within a two-hour period.
Ning started drawing loans from the bank and his debts soon snowballed into a sum of HK$270,000.
Joe Tang, a social worker at the CAGCC, said the legal age for gambling in Hong Kong should be lifted to 21.
In other comments, he said the Hong Kong government could reference its Australian counterpart and allocate one to two percent of the lottery tax to roll out services to help people quit gambling.
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