7th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) The rising costs of renting sports facilities in Hong Kong have become a major concern for citizens who want to stay active. To combat this issue, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has announced the launch of a new booking system called “SmartPLAY” to replace the old system that has been in use for the past 20 years.
According to a document submitted to the Legislative Council on 6th June, the new system will be launched in July and will include features such as real-name registration and an anti-scalping mechanism. When booking and signing up for sports facilities, citizens must make a statement promising to use the facilities themselves and not transfer the booking to others, or they may face imprisonment under the Theft Ordinance (Cap 210) Section 16(A).
To further combat scalping activities, the new system has been designed to include an anti-scalping mechanism that uses a lottery system to allocate specific sports facilities. When applying for natural or artificial turf football fields on a first-come, first-served basis, applicants must also provide the new system user numbers of four other users. Of the four users provided by the applicant, three must sign up and use the facilities together with the tenant during the rental period.
The new booking system will be rolled out in phases starting in July, and current users of the old system will need to re-register. The core functions included in the first phase of the new system, which will be operational in the second half of 2023, include account registration and management, facility booking, event registration, facility and event management, lottery and distribution, attendance management, electronic payment, and mobile applications.
In 2024, the system will be further optimized, with features such as group booking applications, large event management, vacation campsite allocation, fitness center management, water sports center facility management, swimming pool lane reservation applications, and management being introduced.
In its document, the LCSD stated that the new system has been designed to prevent scalping activities in sports facilities. In addition to real-name registration, the new system also uses a lottery system to allocate facilities on a first-come, first-served basis.
Citizens who book and sign up for sports facilities using the new system must make a statement promising to use the facilities themselves and not transfer the booking to others. Failure to comply with this rule may result in imprisonment under the Theft Ordinance.
The new booking system will be launched in July in phases and will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 users at the same time, up from the current capacity of around 1,000 users. This new system is expected to make it easier for citizens to access sports facilities and reduce the prevalence of scalping activities.