A new era for football betting
Karen Chan: “The whole society was very depressed at the time and we were happy to take more people on board.”
It was May 2003. Hong Kong was in the throes of SARS, an economy in recession and rising unemployment. The Hong Kong Jockey Club hosted a large-scale job fair at the Convention and Exhibition Centre to recruit staff to fill 4,000 new full-time and part-time positions created for regulated football betting operations. The response was overwhelming – some 40,000 people applied for the jobs.
With the regulated football betting service due to launch on 1 August that same year, 4,000 full-time and part-time staff were recruited as the big day neared. Karen Chan, an Off-Course Betting Branch (OCBB) manager, recalls that her team at the OCBB doubled in size thanks to the recruitment drive. “The whole society was very depressed at the time and we were happy to take more people on board,” says Karen. “Some colleagues joined our OCBB after losing their jobs, while some university students worked for us part time because they were football fans. The branch was suddenly rejuvenated.”
To combat illegal gambling, the Hong Kong SAR Government announced in 2003 the decision to regulate football betting. With approval from the Legislative Council, the Club became the sole operator authorised to provide football betting entertainment in Hong Kong. The change was intended to stop betting revenue from going to illegal operators, instead channeling it into employment opportunities, tax payments and social welfare projects. At the same time, the regulated football betting service presented new challenges to all front-line staff of the Club.
“We needed more support on all fronts, whether at the OCBBs, on Telebet or the online betting platform,” says Karen. “Due to the kick-off times of overseas football matches, OCBBs were closing at 11:30 pm instead of 8 pm. We also had to quickly learn how the regulated football betting works as well as the ins and outs of different pools.” She also remembers taking part in a series of timely training sessions with her colleagues and she was most impressed by the responsible betting education and training provided by the Club.
While satisfying the public demand for wagering, the Club strives to help the Government in combating illegal gambling by setting a scope for wagering opportunities. This involves limiting wagering opportunities, strictly prohibiting underage wagering and no credit betting. “As frontline staff, we always check if there is any underage visitor at the OCBB. Even today, we have to attend a responsible gambling training session every year to stay up to date.”