Sha Tin Ends Year With Small Handle Decline

Wagering on final day was highest since June 22, 2003.

Hong Kongers sent horse racing on its annual summer holiday after a spectacular Sha Tin season finale that gave the Jockey Club its biggest betting day in six years.

On a clear but very warm summer’s day, 63,369 flocked to the New Territories course and they, combined with customers in 116 off-course betting centers and thousands more players at home, combined to bet HK$1.219 billion on the 11 races --- the highest turnover since June 22, 2003. The on course attendance was up 15.2% year on year.

The bumper 78th and last race meeting for season 2008-09 brought turnover to HK$66.82 billion, down a mere 1.28% on last year’s HK$67.685 billion.

“Considering the impact of the economic crisis, we are more than satisfied with that result,” said Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. “Today has been a wonderful race meeting, with great competition particularly in the fight to be champion trainer. Congratulations to Caspar Fownes, who has done a magnificent job to train another three winners today and land his second trainers’ championship in the space of three years.”

Engelbrecht-Bresges again expressed the hope that the Jockey Club’s plea to Home Affairs for five extra race meetings next season, and 20 simulcast dates, is soon approved.

“I believe we have demonstrated this year what we can do, and how we can channel demand for gaming from the public for the betterment of Hong Kong,” he said.

The Jockey Club’s horse racing business will not have to top up its tax payments but will only just make the HK$8 billion tax guarantee to government. The figure was last night estimated at HK$8.119 billion.

The club, on the other hand, is able to retain just HK$3.088 billion of its HK$66.82 billion of turnover for operating expenses and charity contributions, down from HK$3.149 billion last year.

Chairman John Chan Cho-chak said that after subtracting extraordinary items (losses from investment), the club’s surplus would be down 80% to HK$700 million. He also promised the club would dip into its reserves in order to maintain its annual HK$1 billion commitment to the city’s charities, many of which depend on the Jockey Club’s largesse for their survival.