PUNTERS from around the globe will soon be able to bet directly into the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club's totalisators, which could make local racing the sport's financial kingpin worldwide. After months of discussion, the Government has given the Jockey Club permission to accept bets from anywhere outside the territory with a betting tax of 12 per cent levied on this special pool. The government go-ahead ushers in a new era for Hong Kong racing that will make it a world player. Not only should betting soar - with the community here ultimately benefiting - but local racing seems certain to be given unprecedented global exposure. The Jockey Club is cashing in on its existing high technology and a huge totalisator pool that is the envy of virtually every other racing jurisdiction and a major attraction for any overseas punter. Jockey Club chief executive Major-General Guy Watkins said last night: 'Nothing is going to happen overnight. This is a long-term development which will advance and protect Hong Kong racing internationally. 'There are going to be many delicate negotiations with racing authorities overseas and the governments of those countries. 'The betting duty levied on all overseas bets will be split between the Government here and the relevant overseas authority. That will mean six per cent for Hong Kong and six per cent overseas.' Countries which already take simultaneous broadcasts of local racing are prime areas for a quicker link-up with the totalisator. Saturday racing at Sha Tin is already seen in Canada, on the West Coast of the United States and via 12 outlets in Mexico. Texas, where there is no horse racing, has recently come on line, while interest has been expressed from three centres on the US East Coast. Other prime areas would include Macau, the Philippines and India. There is already a midweek racing service from Happy Valley and Sha Tin to Malaysia. There will be no reciprocal agreements and overseas Telebet customers will continue as before. It is understood the night racing service could be expanded to Australia in what would be a ground-breaking development. There are plans to have night racing at the Moonee Valley racetrack in Melbourne and it is a tradition in Australia that punters can bet on a variety of meetings from any one course or TAB centre. The Jockey Club expects no problems with the technology involved in servicing an array of bets from around the world. The club is the market leader in the development of Customer Input Terminals and has developed a much bigger model which can transfer vast numbers of bets in milliseconds. 'It might be that the overseas pool would close five minutes before post time. An exchange rate for the day would be set prior to the start of betting, probably on the morning of the race meeting,' General Watkins said. It is impossible to predict accurately what effect full-scale overseas betting directly into Hong Kong would have on overall turnover. At present, the Jockey Club almost routinely turns over $1 billion for a Sha Tin meeting. 'Our North American simulcast operation brings in $450 million a year which is very small. I would see that going up fourfold at least,' General Watkins said. Of much more significance could be markets in other Asian countries plus Australia. With Chinese communities abroad targeted, and the vast markets of India and Australia obvious possibilities, it must be virtually certain that by the turn of the century Hong Kong would have a betting turnover impossible for any country, including Japan, to get close to.