Hong Kong Jockey Club targets April for commingling bets with US
Even though Legco approved it last year, Australia is looking less likely to start this season because of delays
The Hong Kong Jockey Club expects to be commingling bets with the United States by April but the same co-operation with Australia is now looking less likely to take place this season.
The Jockey Club received Legislative Council approval to undertake commingling - the process by which bets placed on Hong Kong races in another country will be forwarded into the "home" betting pools here, and vice versa - in July last year, but the fanfare accompanying the announcement has not been followed by actual commingling to this point.
The Jockey Club estimates commingling with all the nations operating their own small domestic pools on Hong Kong races could add HK$3 billion to HK$4 billion to its annual turnover.
Executive director of racing, Bill Nader said on Wednesday that delays in commingling with Australia had reached "a critical point".
"The US is moving forward and we'll be commingling there in late March or April at the latest, but we are at a point where I have to downgrade Australia from a possible this season to a questionable," he said.
"It's moving very slowly. The interface is in good shape, but getting the legal, commercial and financial aspects of it all together there is proving difficult.
"And once we have resolved the issues with Australia, there are regulatory matters that are going to take some time too. They should probably get there by July, but that will take us into next season for commencement."
Nader said Australia had now been placed on notice, along with the Jockey Club's other partners who have their own domestic pooling on Hong Kong racing, Singapore and Macau, that existing arrangements would cease at the close of this season.
"It's been a full season by July since we had our approval for commingling and our requirement going forward to next season is that all existing relationships will move to common pooling," Nader said.
"Macau and Singapore have been a little challenged in getting themselves organised to commingle, but they are working hard and it's gradually coming together.
"With a more mature country like Australia, we had expected it to happen faster."
But Nader is confident North America will be on board sooner rather than later.
"The United States should be up and running in the next two months and also Canada looks like coming on board around the same time, maybe towards the end of April," Nader said.