From Monday, online bookings of recreational and sports facilities for the coming seven days will open at 7am daily, while in-person bookings at Leisure and Cultural Services Department counters and self-service kiosks will open 15 minutes later, at 7.15am.

The department said the new measure is aimed at combating "queuing gangs" who line up outside booking counters and self-service kiosks late at night.

It will also no longer allow organizations to change names on applications once they have been confirmed in the approval letter following complaints about some organizations suspected of touting activity, such as making unauthorized transfers of booked sessions to different users.

Under the new measure, only the applicant whose name is listed on the approval letter can attend the booking session at the venue upon presenting the original copy of his or her Hong Kong identity card.

The LCSD will also introduce a new function for online booking from noon on Monday through the "iAM Smart" system.

"Since iAM Smart registration requires identity verification to ensure each Hong Kong identity card number is only registered with one account - which can only be bound to one smartphone - those who engage in touting activities cannot use the iAM Smart accounts of other persons to book facilities," it said, adding it will closely monitor the measures' effectiveness and introduce more when necessary.

Sports facilities under LCSD such as basketball courts have been fully booked since their reopening as part of a April 21 relaxation of Covid curbs, leading to the revival of touting activities.

That led to a two-hour basketball court booking being touted for between HK$1,000 and HK$1,200, about thrice the original cost of HK$300.

Earlier, a new measure was announced to target those suspected of engaging in touting activities, with random inspections being conducted during the booked sessions starting from May 1.

If the person under whom the sports facility is booked is not present during the session, it will result in one count of breaching conditions of use by the hirer.

Anyone who accumulates two counts within 30 consecutive days will not be able to book any fee-charging recreation and sports facilities for 90 days, starting from the third day post the second breach.

But a football enthusiast, Jason, told The Standard he and his teammates were infuriated by the rules.

"We booked a football pitch in Kwun Tong for three hours, and every 20 to 30 minutes, LCSD staffers interrupted our match and asked the person who booked the pitch to confirm his presence," he said.

The rules should reduce scalping instead of annoying genuine users, he said.