A counsellor says people seeking treatment for gambling addiction at his centre are getting younger and racking up bigger debts.
Godfrey Ip from the Zion Social Service says that during the pandemic there has been a shift to gambling online, where it is easier to bet and borrow money. He added that about half of those seeking help at his centre were now aged 39 or below.
Ip was commenting after a man named Lau Ka-wai was jailed on Tuesday for assisting the suicide of his parents. The three had entered a suicide pact together as they were unable to pay Lau's substantial gambling debts and had been hounded by creditors for over eight years. Lau quit the pact but his parents took their own lives.
Ip said: "We don’t have the latest figures, but during pandemic the age of people seeking help for gambling has dropped. Those who are 39 and below make up half of the people seeking help.
"We've also seen a general increase in gambling debts, and have found a shift in the most common types of gambling activity from in-person participation to online gambling, both legal and illegal."
Ip noted that the most recent study on gambling in Hong Kong was in 2016. It showed that 61 percent of Hongkongers gambled, a reduced prevalence rate compared to previous studies.
The counsellor added that besides helping gambling addicts themselves, his centre offers support to families affected by gambling.
"Families are often traumatised when things get out of hand," he said. "It's important to raise hope for families to resolve debt problems, and to help them find a way out."