Commingling off to a modest start
Jockey Club insists it is satisfied with the opening figure, but when all is said and done, there's not a lot to go around
We didn't hear the "tallest oak tree grows from the smallest acorn" axiom get wheeled out after Sunday's Sha Tin debut for commingling of bets, but it might have been, on an afternoon when the Ghosts Of Racing Yet To Come made their appearance.
After around a decade of waiting, or at least since it was first mentioned, having bets from another country that was not Macau go directly into pools here had arrived.
The tally of HK$2.7 million in bets will have many racing fans wondering what the fuss was about, as will the comment by executive director of racing Bill Nader that it was better than he had anticipated.
We aren't privy to the breakdown of that HK$2.7 million, once the winners are paid and the government gets its share back in the United States, but it wouldn't amount to a whole lot to be sliced up.
Still, it was notable that Nader did say the club's fees were better for that tiny amount than for the domestic pools wagered on Hong Kong in Australia, where the last Sha Tin race alone held over HK$1 million across two operators.
The club is expecting the US commingled bets through TVG to double by the end of this month and there are discussions under way with two other major wagering operators, Xpressbet and Twin Spires.
Turnover is also a function of people in the US needing time to accept and understand the Hong Kong racing product - although in our experience the kinds of racing punters who are up late at night or in the early hours of the morning and betting on racing half a world away are a pretty quick study.
So commingling, at least in the US for now, is away and running.
Jockey Club officials have always hinted that the real X-factor with the potential holdings on commingling is how little can be extrapolated from the domestic holds on Hong Kong in those small localised foreign pools.
Pools so small that anyone having a decent bet would slaughter their own price are no guide to the interest which may be generated in pools large enough that it isn't your own bet ruining the price you have to worry about - of course, in the fullness of time, foreign punters will become as familiar as everyone here with all the leviathans wandering about stomping on your dividends for you.
Welcome to the God Of Brown Lamp.
Singapore, Australia and New Zealand will be crucial comminglers when they come on board in the months ahead, given the familiarity of people there with the similar Hong Kong racing style and with many of the participants, human and equine.
At least the way forward for commingling now is a clear one - more operators, more access, more countries, so we can really see whether this idea has any legs in the real world.