Hong Kong people will be able to place legal bets on soccer matches, after lawmakers passed a contentious gambling bill by a 30-24 vote yesterday.
The government said the measure would boost tax revenues and run illegal bookmakers out of business, but Christian and education groups put up an impassioned defense against the bill, saying it would harm society.
They charged it would create more gambling addicts and encourage young Hong Kong people to bet on soccer -- a popular sport among local students.
"Society will pay a heavy price," warned Cheng Kar-foo, an opposition lawmaker who voted against the bill.
The government said it was not encouraging gambling. Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho said the bill will give Hong Kong gamblers a legal alternative, alleviating a problem with outlaw bookmakers that had been "worsening rapidly."
"Soccer betting should not be linked to morality," lawmaker Selina Chow said.