Possibility of imposing deterrent criminal liabilities or fines on person engaged in suspected touting activities at venues for profits: HK Gov’t

A question was raised by Hon. Luk Chung-hung regarding the supply of sports venues under the Leisure and Culture Services Department (LCSD) fell short of demand and that some hirers tout their booked sessions for using the venues for profits (touting).

Still, the LCSD introduced a number of new measures between May and November 2022 to further combat suspected touting activities.

In response, Kevin Yeung, secretary for culture, sports, and tourism, wrote a letter.

He said that due to high demands for facilities, especially during certain peak hours, there was a rise in activities where touts demand hirers to pay higher prices for the facilities, resulting in profits. 

Within the past few years, the LCSD did introduce various measures to improve the booking policy and to fight against the unauthorized transfer of user permits for profit (touting).

Further, touting activities have been recently conducted on various social media platforms in a discreet manner to evade investigation and the crackdown by the LCSD, which makes it difficult for LCSD to collect relevant information.

The LCSD does review the booking policy from time to time and in recent years there has been a multi-pronged approach to combat touting activities so there are equal opportunities for genuine users to hire public leisure facilities.

They include: enhancing the booking policy, imposing a penalty mechanism, and stepping up inspections.

 Since May 2022, the LCSD has adopted measures to enhance the booking policy. 

It has reduced the daily maximum number of non-peak hour sessions of fee-charing sports and recreation facilities that an individual can book to two hours for the same type of facility. 

It has also pushed the starting time of the operating hours of the Leisure Link booking counters and self-service kiosks to 07:15 am to combat “queuing gangs” lining up overnight. 

Furthermore, it requires the input of the Leisure Link patron numbers of the hirer and four other users: three users must check in and be present during the use of the booked session alongside the hirer at the time of submitting an online application for balloting of turf soccer pitches to make it more difficult for touting.

Next, there are release sessions of facilities from canceled bookings for public bookings at 07:00 am the following day alongside new sessions available on that day so as to give fair chance to others wanting to book these sessions.

For those who breached these conditions, the LCSD has imposed heavier penalties on hirers.

They include extending the suspension of a hirer’s rights to book fee-charging sports and recreation facilities to 360 days for “unauthorized transfer of use permit.”

Also, it is doubling the validity period of records of a hirer “not raking up the booked sessions” or “not being present during the use of the booked session” to 60 consecutive days.

Aside from random inspections, the LCSD is examining the possibility of imposing deterrent criminal liabilities or fines on persons engaged in the unauthorized transfer of user permits under the current legislation.

Those who breach the conditions of use may have contravened the Theft Ordinance (Cap. 210) and be liable to criminal responsibility.