Benjamin Li
May 16, 2014

Can a campaign stop Hong Kong from gambling on football?

HONG KONG - In the run-up to the FIFA World Cup this June, and to counter aggressive advertising by local lending companies, Ping Wo Fund Advisory Committee (PWFAC, 平和基金) has launched a campaign with the perhaps impossible goal of discouraging the public from gambling on football.

Can a campaign stop Hong Kong from gambling on football?

With the slogan ‘Lead a healthy life, don’t gamble’, the April-July campaign has support from the Home Affairs Bureau, the Hong Kong Police and 70 other organisations including the Education Department, youth groups and football teams. Ironically, the Hong Kong Jockey Club—which most would not consider an anti-gambling organisation—is one of the main sponsors of the PWFAC.

Yau Wing-Kwong (pictured below), chairman of PWFAC, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the campaign targets people from all walks of life and age groups, with a particular focus on young people. “They may, out of curiosity and peer pressure, try their luck on gambling, and we hope to fence them off from taking the first step, raise awareness of the bad things relating to gambling and steer them to the respect of sportsmanship,” Yau said.

Gambling is not only a serious problem to individuals but also a social problem, he added. "One gambler may affect their families and friends, telling lies to borrow money and ruin their social relationships. It is a heavy burden and serious social issue to society.”

Howard Ling, member of the Ping Wo Fund Advisory Committee, echoed that, adding that education campaigns about gambling and providing counselling are parts of the PWFAC's mission.

The campaign includes extensive announcements in the public interest (APIs) on TV and radio. However, PWFAC is quite aware that the conventional ‘preaching’ approach, common in government commercials, has its shortcomings. “We can’t use traditional and hard-selling messages, which is no longer effective," Ling said. "We need images to make it cool, fun and trendy that appeal to youngsters.”

The groups claim to have come up some ‘innovative’ components including war games, interactive dramas involving students and football-team members, social-media engagements, toy figures by local designer Chocolate Rain (pictured below), and a roadshow in shopping hotspots.

They estimate that more than 200,000 people will participate in the more than 100 sponsored activities and programmes, while the roadshow is expected to reach an additional 1 million.

The campaign hopes to raise awareness about the many lending companies that are advertising aggressively prior to the World Cup, Yau said. “Nowadays it is very easy to get loans, especially on the internet," he said. "Loan-lending ads also highlight that people don’t even need an ID card to apply."

According to a Hong Kong Police report, 70 per cent of the local population has a gambling habit (including light gambling like the Jockey Club's Mark Six lottery). So-called 'problem gamblers' account for 1.4 per cent of the Hong Kong population, and most of them are men.

"Although the figure is coming down from a few years ago, we still need to do more, especially among young people, as prevention is always better than cure,” Lin said.

Yau added that while this sort of educational campaign takes time to drum home the message, one objective is to let problematic gamblers know that counselling help is available if they want it.

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