Wagering, Attendance Fall for 2001-02 Hong Kong Season

Total handle dropped 4% and attendance declined 13% for the 2001-02 Hong Kong racing season that ended June 16.

Lawrence Wong, chief executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, attributed the declines to "the sluggish performance of the economy and the effects of illegal gambling, particularly the upsurge in sports gambling with illegal and offshore bookmakers."

Wong added, however, that the 4% decrease "could have been worse if the performance of other sectors of the economy is an indication."

Hong Kong has had some success driving out competition from offshore operations with a Gambling Ordinance passed last month. The new law tightened up the regulation of gambling in the region, but was adopted to late to help horse racing this season.

The racing season, which drew to a close at Sha Tin, handled HK$78.1 billion (US$10 billion), down from HK$81.5 billion (US$10.45 billion) for the 2000-01 season. Average daily attendance was 30,135, down from about 34,740 for the previous season.

World Cup soccer also had an affect on the meet. Five games clashed with race meets and cost the Hong Kong Jockey Club about HK$600 million (US$76.9 million) and attendance dropped by 26%.

The lower handle resulted in a 4% decrease in betting taxes paid by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to the regional government, which is controlled by China.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club paid an estimated HK$11.7 billion (US$1.5 billion) in betting taxes, a decrease of HK$780 million (US$100 million) from a year ago. The jockey club contributes about 10% of the region's tax income and is a significant contributor to charitable organizations.