Illegal bookies adding fuel to impressive turnover

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am


The Jockey Club was perilously close to reaching HK$1 billion in turnover last Wednesday at Happy Valley and, before the end of the season, it seems inevitable that it will happen, so buoyant is the betting handle at present.

As far as we know - and we can't find a Jockey Club official who seems to be confident in the matter one way or the other - a HK$1 billion midweek meeting at the Valley would be a first.

In the peak turnover days immediately pre-handover, the midweek meetings were seven-race cards, so getting to the billion mark then would have been hard work, though we aren't ruling it out as having happened until confirmed.

Yet the turnover buoyancy stretches beyond the confines of Hong Kong, as Berio's late crunch on the tote board reminded us all on Sunday.

The bigger the legal action here, it seems, the bigger the illegal and offshore action and the bet-backs that go into the pools late for accounting purposes.

Several sizeable bets were made on Berio but one single bet of reportedly around HK$4 million placed close to the race smashed the odds to smithereens.

Some might read that as clever punters, computer syndicates, etc but all it really screams is illegal bookmakers of one kind or another putting back some of the money held against Berio for reasons of risk management. A bookie holding sizeable amounts against Berio winning is far more comfortable about putting back HK$4 million of the hold and paying the remainder at 3.6 - since he would use the Hong Kong tote odds - than keeping the bets and having to pay his punters at triple or quadruple the price. Simply sensible business.

But if one operator is holding enough against Berio to be betting back HK$4 million for risk management, then how big is his book on the race? Surely it is at least the HK$14 million collected from the bet lodged at the Jockey Club.

That is a single operator and (while we understand there is a type of hierarchical pyramid system among Asia's illegal bookmakers, whereby the action of the pinnacle operator also can be said to include percentages of operations lower down the pecking order) it only stands to reason there will be multiple operators.

It is tough to wipe the smiles off Jockey Club officials these days, with 'billion days' standard fare, but events like Sunday's Berio plunge does at least give them pause to wonder how much illegal money is sloshing around and how they can get hold of it.