HK racing is opened to Macau punters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 April, 2004, 12:00am

Offshore betting expected to start next month and attract $100m per meeting

Macau punters will be able to place bets on Hong Kong races next month.

Tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun said yesterday an agreement had been struck between the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) and the Macau Jockey Club (MJC), which were waiting on approval from the respective governments.

'Macau residents very soon will be able to place their bets on horse racing in Hong Kong,' said Mr Ho, the MJC chairman, during the Macau-Hong Kong Trophy meeting at Taipa yesterday.

'The Macau Jockey Club will sign an agreement with the Hong Kong Jockey Club in the next few days ... It's a win-win for the two of us.'

HKJC chairman Ronald Arculli said a memorandum of understanding would go to the respective governments for final approval.

'I expect that simulcast betting will begin sometime in May. Once it is ratified by the governments, we will make a further announcement on the exact date,' Mr Arculli said.

The chairmen said technical difficulties - on taxation and commission issues and the transmission of bets into the Hong Kong pools - had been overcome.

The IT departments of the two clubs had completed the task of marrying the two computer wagering systems, and extensive testing had shown the wagering link between the two jurisdictions was working perfectly.

Mr Arculli and Mr Ho first announced their intention for Macau to become a simulcast venue on October 18 last year.

The unprecedented displays of unity and co-operation between Macau and Hong Kong came after a 12-month due diligence process, during which the HKJC investigated the possibility of buying out its smaller neighbour.

The buyout was deemed impossible, but executives on both sides had established enough common ground to make the two exercises - the goodwill races and using Macau as a simulcast venue - logistically and economically viable.

Mr Arculli said the prospect of Hong Kong punters having access to bet on Macau races had yet to be properly considered.

'At this stage, I do not want to be too ambitious. We have worked hard to overcome the problems that stood in the way of Macau betting into the Hong Kong pools,' he said. 'First we will deal with this and see how it progresses.'

Mr Ho previously estimated that Macau punters would bet about $100 million per meeting once the simulcast project was launched - about 12 per cent of the HKJC turnover. The increase would be welcome after six unbroken years of wagering decline.

The question of the nature of the agreement for revenue splitting was avoided by both chairmen.

The HKJC gets a tax break from the government on any bets sold 'overseas', and this tax break is used to remunerate the race club or betting agency that acts as the HKJC's betting agent.

Mr Ho also revealed Macau would sign the Good Neighbour Policy on April 26. The MJC was not included in the landmark agreement in August last year, when the foundation jurisdictions, Hong Kong and Japan, were joined by eight other racing nations in the fight against offshore and illegal bookmaking.

Mr Arculli and Mr Ho made their announcements after the running of the $2.3 million Hong Kong-Macau Trophy - the richest race ever in Macau - won by Crown's Gift. The Macau-based horse also won the initial friendship race at Sha Tin on February 15.