Hong Kong Jockey Club records record turnover despite economic gloom
Operator reports lacklustre performance in racing but strong results for football betting and Mark Six
The Jockey Club celebrated another year of record turnover amid a looming economic downturn, fuelled by double-digit growth in soccer betting and the Mark Six.
Overall turnover for Hong Kong’s sole betting operator stood at HK$202.7 billion in the financial year ending on June 30, a 5.88 per cent jump from the previous 12-month period.
But rising operating costs meant its return to the community could not reach its turnover growth, hitting HK$26.1 billion – a rise of 4 per cent.
The city’s largest taxpayer contributed HK$20.9 billion in betting duty and profits tax this year, a record high, while making another payment of HK$1.3 billion to the Lotteries Fund.
Despite the club’s gloomy forecast in February that racing turnover would dip by as much as 5 per cent, turnover from races at its Happy Valley and Sha Tin racecourses rose 1.8 per cent in its financial year.
However, turnover was down 1.7 per cent based purely on the racing season from September until July.
This was in line with chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges’ prediction earlier this year that the full impact of the downturn would not be felt for “another six to nine months”.
Despite the lacklustre performance in racing, soccerl bets were up 10.9 per cent at HK$86.8 billion.
Revenue from the Mark Six, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, bucked last year’s decline with a record 9.9 per cent bump to reach HK $8.55 billion.
A total of HK$108 million of unclaimed prizes was transferred to the snowball pool this year – a five-year high.
Psychiatrist Tsang Fan-kwong said he did not believe the revenue increase could be attributed to worsening addiction to gambling. He said the number of pathological gamblers had remained steady in recent years at around 2 to 5 per cent of the adult population.
Asked what may have caused the bump in Mark Six turnover, Tsang pointed to “major events”, saying snowballs and jackpots could lure more first-time betters, but most of these people did not turn into regular punters.
It was not all smooth sailing for the club, however, as it had to deal with rising operating costs. Despite a downsizing exercise which saw its headcount cut by over 2,100 to around 22,000 employees, costs this year stood at HK$6.5 billion, taking up 19.8 per cent of its revenue, a 3.6 per cent rise year-on-year.
The charitable giant also suffered a setback in its revitalisation of the former Central Police Station compound when one of the buildings partially collapsed in May. The club again stressed its commitment in completing the project, without specifying when it would be ready.