UNDER FIERCE ATTACK from the rest of the world and even some its own people, an archaic but once confident movement blindly resists a changing world and pledges to go down fighting. No, we are not discussing the Taleban. Our subject today is the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The latest assault comes from British bookmaker William Hill. Freed to roam where it wills by domestic reforms that now tax it only on profits, William Hill has picked an easy target and announced it will offer fixed bets on Hong Kong horse races through the Internet. The predictable result has been a greater display of rage than you might find from a Taleban mullah blowing up Buddhist statues. The club wants a counter-strike from our Government in the form of speedy passage of new legislation making it illegal for anyone to offer such bets to us and for us to take them. Note here that such extra-territorial measures are sanctioned around the world only for crimes against humanity, paedophilia and the whims of the United States Department of Justice and you can understand why our lawmakers have some reservations. In any case, you need not worry. The day is still some time away when special police with horseshoe and whip badges on their shoulders will have the right to break down your front door and haul you off to jail if they see the words 'William Hill' on your computer screen. The club knows it too. That is why chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kwong has an alternative proposal up his sleeve. It is for the Government to make the club more competitive against interlopers by cutting betting duties way back from the 14 per cent now extracted out of every bet and perhaps even take a leaf out of Britain's book by taxing horses only through a profits tax. Good idea, but let's get one thing straight right away. Mr Wong may assert that the Government's revenues already suffer from the interlopers who pay no tax but the actual figures indicate otherwise. Bets and sweeps taxes have averaged roughly 1 per cent of gross domestic product for the last 10 years. In fact, this figure was up slightly in the last fiscal year and way up compared with 20 years ago. Make of that what you will. Behind it is the hard data. Look at things another way, however, and you may find reason for the Government to adopt Mr Wong's alternative proposal. There is public discussion at the moment about whether we should have a broad-based sales tax, say 3 per cent, to widen the tax base and correct the fiscal deficit. The anomaly is that we already have two sales taxes - stamp duties and betting duties - one low, one high, and neither of them 3 per cent. Why not rationalise matters and make things fair by adopting that one unified 3 per cent tax on all sales of good and services? For property and shares we would have to make that a tax on transaction costs rather than sale amounts or we would not have a market left in either of them, but it would certainly fix Mr Wong's problem. That 14 per cent is undoubtedly onerous. We live in Hong Kong, not Canada, after all. And Mr Wong would then be left free to make good on his threat to foreign bookmakers that the Jockey Club could give William Hill a taste of its own medicine by setting up shop abroad. Great idea, Mr Wong, but could you please first tart up your own tawdry off-course betting shops as a trial run at home. Are you also truly sure that your cosy protected monopoly is ready to make its way unaided in the real world? I would rather put money into a joint venture with British bookmakers on football bets in Hong Kong.