Sea change on way for those wasting corporate boxes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2011, 12:00am


Sunday's HK$200 million year-on-year increase in turnover for the Panasonic Cup meeting was yet another in a series of towering rises this season, as the juggernaut momentum of recent years rolls on.

It wasn't so long ago that executive director of racing Bill Nader was proudly forecasting about a season featuring 10 HK$1 billion turnover days.

Last year, that figure was breached 33 times in 83 meetings and already this term, the billion mark in pari-mutuel handle has been topped at seven of the 18 meetings.

There seems nothing to even apply the brakes to the turnover and Jockey Club officials would have a serious case of face ache but for what must, in the light of those results, be a somewhat difficult negotiation with the government regarding tax changes or commingling. Still, there are worse problems to have.

What has been noticeable more recently, though, is that crowd figures have also been climbing, which was not the case in the early years of the restructuring, and rebates that turned around the Titanic of betting turnover just when it seemed headed for the iceberg.

That is a positive for many other reasons - club officials believe it has resulted from investment in facilities and thereby justifies the big budgets already outlined for the next few years.

But there is an undercurrent to it that should put on notice the clubs and organisations, which are long-term holders of racecourse boxes and form one of the backbone traditions of going racing here.

The club believes the expensive upgrading of its facilities will lead to more positive crowd figures, but also that carries with it a responsibility to be sure all of those facilities are being effectively used.

And that means trying to use corporate box spaces to fit with their capacity - a sea change for some of the long-time box holders who might have less than full occupancy in their race-day facilities and delight in the open spaces.

Some box holders have been diluted down to having the rights to tables within a shared box rather than the whole room, and others can look forward to the same.

As one official said, the club treasures its long relationship with box holders, but there is something wrong when those facilities are not being fully used, even on premium racing days, and yet the club is still forced to turn away members wanting to make bookings for restaurant tables.

It would seem that is about to change.


The year-on-year increase in turnover for the Panasonic Cup meeting on Sunday