Hong Kong Racing Attracts $145m in Wagers Without Racegoers

  • Horse racing is taking place behind closed doors in Hong Kong
  • Revenue from racing makes up about 1.3% of the city’s total GDP
  • $145m was wagered online during a recent evening meeting
race at Hong Kong Jockey Club
Racing continues in Hong Kong with significant sums being wagered despite the deadly coronavirus outbreak. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Important source of revenue

Evening racing in Hong Kong is still going ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic, albeit behind closed doors. 

Horse racing has been halted in most parts of the world due to the outbreak of coronavirus. Hong Kong heavily relies on revenue from racing. About 1.3% of the city’s yearly GDP comes from the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

With bettors being able to place wagers through online portals for these races, there are still significant sums being generated despite the shutdown.

1.3% of the city’s yearly GDP comes from the Hong Kong Jockey Club

During the most recent “Happy Wednesday” meeting, wagers totaled almost $145m ($1.1 billion HKD). This compares to $162m ($1.3 billion HKD) that was bet on the same date in 2018 when the stands were filled with racegoers.

Huge success so far

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a monopoly on the gambling sector thanks to a government mandate. It has online channels set up that attract as many as 700,000 people regularly placing bets. This accounts for about 10% of the entire population of the city. 

The difference in wagers year-on-year is attributed to the 100 off-track betting centers being closed. A lot of people prefer to place their bets through these retail facilities. 

As well as being a revenue driver for the government, the racing remains ongoing also for employment and entertainment reasons. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is the largest taxpayer in the city, with about 20,000 employees. It also provides entertainment for all those people stuck in isolation in their homes. 

Happy Valley filled with silence

Usually, upwards of 20,000 fans pack into the Happy Valley racetrack on a Wednesday evening. However, now there is silence when the horses are released from the starting gate. No shouting or cheering can be heard. 

With the ongoing pandemic, only the club officials, staff, horse owners, trainers, and jockeys are allowed on-site. Jockeys can be heard urging on their mounts by the few people allowed in the facility. 

Racing is extremely popular in Hong Kong, with about 30% of the adult population following the sport. Every Wednesday evening, as many as 800,000 people watch the races on television. 

This is why Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s CEO, said:

We think it’s important to provide the tradition and to continue horse racing.”

Widespread sports cancellations

Across the world, sporting organizations have canceled events and postponed leagues until the coronavirus outbreak has been dealt with. With the virus originating in Asia, this region’s sporting scene has been affected for the longest. 

The likes of the Summer Olympics, Formula One, golf, and tennis events that were set to take place in Asia-Pacific have been canceled or postponed. Hong Kong racing is one of the last sporting events still taking place.

Precautions being taken

Strict precautions are in place to ensure that racing can continue in a safe manner. Every person who enters the facility must get their temperature levels screened beforehand. Everyone has to wear a face mask and the track is disinfected on a mass level on a regular basis.

At the end of February, a member of the Hong Kong Jockey Club who had been at the clubhouse about a mile away from the track was confirmed as having the coronavirus. This led to the clubhouse having to shut down for a two week period. To date, there have been 714 confirmed coronavirus cases in Hong Kong, resulting in four deaths.

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