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Hong Kong Council Calls for Better Regulation of Quasi-Gambling Apps

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The rapid advancement of technology has transformed many aspects of our daily lives, making everything just a click away on the internet. While this convenience has brought numerous benefits, it has also given rise to ethical and legal questions that require careful consideration. One pressing issue that demands the attention of authorities in Hong Kong is the growing popularity of simulated online gambling games.

Related: Hong Kong Police Arrest 130 Players in Illegal Gambling Dens

Unveiling a Disturbing Trend

The Hong Kong Consumer Council has taken a commendable step by highlighting this issue and calling for better regulation of games with a betting nature. Their recent findings, which unveiled the questionable practices employed by operators of six gaming apps, reveal a concerning trend.

These operators use various tactics to entice players into making in-app purchases, often at exorbitant prices. For instance, the cost of maintaining the highest membership tier in these games ranged from HK$870 to a staggering HK$2.48 million. It raises the question of who would be willing to spend millions on virtual game memberships.

While these games don't involve real-money wagers, they closely mimic real-life gambling experiences, with players using money to acquire in-game currencies for activities like mahjong, slot machines, and poker. Moreover, they employ retention strategies such as daily login rewards, leaderboards, social functions that incentivize players to invite friends, and in-app lottery-like rewards.

One of the most concerning aspects of these quasi-gambling apps is the apparent lack of age restrictions. Although these games are meant for adults, there is no effective age verification process for users. Some apps even have no age restrictions whatsoever, creating a potential gateway for minors to engage in gambling. This situation is not only worrying but also highlights the risk of normalizing real-money gambling behaviors among young players, as studies have shown.

Urgent Call for Better Gaming Regulations

The Consumer Council has received complaints from players regarding issues related to rewards and terms of conditions. While the number of complaints may be small, they underscore the inadequacies in the current supervision and protection mechanisms in place for these apps.

In contrast to mainland China, where online games are subject to stringent regulations, Hong Kong seems to lag behind in acknowledging the need for comprehensive legislation on electronic games. However, the Consumer Council's call for improved gaming regulations on wagering-themed games is a vital step forward that deserves serious consideration.

In conclusion, as technology continues to shape our lives, it is crucial for authorities in Hong Kong to address the growing concerns surrounding quasi-gambling apps. By implementing better regulation and oversight, Hong Kong can protect its citizens, particularly minors, from the potential dangers associated with these apps. Striking the right balance between technological innovation and responsible governance is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience for all.

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