Top horses and tax changes point to a great new season

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 September, 2005, 12:00am

They're off! And whatever the weather at Sha Tin today, acting Hong Kong chief executive Rafael Hui Si-yan will bang the gong to open a season in which the prospects have rarely looked sunnier after eight years of off-track gloom.

Betting turnover figures have tumbled every year since 1997 in an inverse relationship with Hong Kong's best racehorses, which have grown steadily in stature to a position of high international respect.

The SAR now boasts several horses listed in the world's best 50 thoroughbreds, including the undisputed world sprint champion in Silent Witness. But away from the continued success of its equine athletes, the Jockey Club now has Everest-high hopes of a change to an upward turnover trend, too, with the government expected to approve changes to the club's tax structure by mid-season. The change from a turnover tax to a gross profits tax has seen very positive results in betting figures for other major jurisdictions like Britain and Singapore and the Jockey Club is bullish about its prospects.

'We may have the changes through in January which will allow us to reposition racing in what has become a very competitive environment here against the Macau casinos and illegal betting,' said the club's executive director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.