Hong Kong Wagering Tops HK$100 Billion for First Time

Handle during the multi-faceted Hong Kong Jockey Club racing season topped the HK$100-billion mark for the first time in 2006-07, but officials said there’s still much work to be done.

Thoroughbred racing produced handle of HK$64 billion, up 6.6%. according to HKJC statistics released Aug. 1. Wagering on HKJC football (soccer) was HK$30.9 billion, down 3.5%. Betting on the Mark Six lottery was HK$6.6 billion, up almost HK$300 million from the previous season.

Attendance at Sha Tin and Happy Valley racecourses was up 2% to 1.92 million. That reversed a 10-year decline, officials said.

“The importance of this turnaround cannot be emphasized enough as horse racing lies at the heart of the club’s operations,” HKJC chief executive officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said in a statement. “A successful horse racing business is essential, as ultimately it has an impact on all our other sports entertainment, membership, and charitable activities. The increase in attendance shows that our continuing efforts to upgrade the racecourse facilities and provide more on-course programs are paying off. We want to make a racecourse visit an all-round entertainment experience.”

The nonprofit HKJC paid HK$12.64 billion to the Hong Kong SAR Government in betting duty and profits tax, about 8.2% of total taxes collected by Inland Revenue Department. In addition, HK$1.05 billion was directly donated to 107 community and charitable projects by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

“More and more, the club is touching the lives of Hong Kong people,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said. He cited independent surveys indicating approximately 30% of Hong Kong residents have availed themselves of club-supported charity and community projects.

Engelbrecht-Bresges said implementation of betting-duty reforms passed by the Legislative Council in 2006 allowed the club more flexibility to introduce new wagers and help combat illegal wagering. The Club, however, had to make up for a shortfall of HK$119 million on the HK$8 billion in local taxes on racing.

“This is a reflection of the difficulties we still face in combating the illegal and offshore operators due to Hong Kong’s high betting taxation rates and the regulatory constraints imposed on the club, such as the strict limits on simulcasts,” the CEO said. “Even one extra race day would have been enough to make up (for) this shortfall.”

Engelbrecht-Bresges said the HKJC has a plan to strengthen its business against competition, revitalize the image of racing, export its successful racing and football products, and bolster its commitment to the Hong Kong community. One such initiative is the Racecourse Master Plan, which is seeking 365-day-a-year usage of the Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses as entertainment hubs.

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