Hong Kong Seeks Tax Change to Boost Handle

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is negotiating with the government over the way racing wagers are taxed. The organization is confident a change from a per-bet tax to a flat tax on total handle could increase betting pools.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, executive director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said if the attempt to reform wagering taxation is successful, a recent decline in handle could be reversed. Handle in Hong Kong has declined over the past few years since it peaked at HK$130 million a race in 1997. The per-race handle currently amounts to about HK$90 million.

The current taxation system for standard bets is 17.5%. The government gets 12% and the Jockey Club retains 5.5%.

Engelbrecht-Bresges said if the government would tax the club on its profits rather than each bet, Hong Kong pools could prove more attractive to international bettors. Bookmakers and betting exchanges couldn't compete with the takeout, which could drop to 10% or less.

In addition, should overseas players be allowed to place bets directly into Hong Kong pools, handle could again near its peak of the late 1990s, he said.

Engelbrecht-Bresges said with no change in the taxation system, the government would receive about 10% less this year due to a decline in handle.