Australian bookmaker CentreRacing yesterday entered the war of words over Internet betting when it accused the Hong Kong Jockey Club of 'living in the dark ages' over the issue. Terry Lillis, proprietor of the Alice Springs-based firm, said the Jockey Club was paying the price for its policy of restricting betting opportunities and should drop its confrontational approach to bookmakers which bet on Hong Kong racing via the Internet. 'To believe that betting on Hong Kong racing should be confined only to Hong Kong is archaic, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club is living in the dark ages,' Lillis said. 'It should realise that this is the 21st century and wagering is now an international business. There is no going back, the only way is forward. The way is to internationalise, and that is what businesses all over the world - in many different fields - are doing. The Jockey Club has a wonderful product in its first-class horse racing and it should open it up to the world.' Lillis' firm, which has been offering fixed odds betting on Hong Kong racing since September, is one of at least four Internet operators known to the Jockey Club. Lawrence Wong, the Club's chief executive, accused the offshore firms of 'piracy' after the heat in the battle was turned up last weekend when William Hill, one of the 'Big Three' bookmakers in Britain, joined the fray. But Lillis claimed that the Internet firms were responding to a gap in the market created by the Jockey Club's recent policy of closing accounts from overseas punters. 'The Jockey Club turned the tap off its own business in order to keep the money in Hong Kong. It has a policy of restricting people from betting with them such as barring people from outside Hong Kong, and barring some punters who, it appears, may have been too successful with their wagering and had their betting accounts with the Jockey Club closed,' he said. 'Many big punters had their accounts closed by the Jockey Club a few years back which cost the Jockey Club a lot in turnover and that decision is now returning to haunt the Club. We cater to many of those people, so we are not taking dollars away from the betting pools. Most of our clients are in Australia, but we also have a substantial number in Hong Kong. The amount of money we hold at the moment is miniscule, but we are working hard to increase it.' The Internet firms could benefit Hong Kong by taking SAR racing to a wider audience, Lillis claimed. 'The Jockey Club says we are stealing the product, we say we are building the product. I truly believe that the more interest we create in Hong Kong racing, then the more betting turnover the Hong Kong product will attract, and that is new betting turnover. That is good for everyone, not just CentreRacing, but also for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The Jockey Club would be doing everyone a favour if it changed its archaic views. We have many clients from a number of countries outside of Hong Kong and that is turnover that would not have gone into Jockey Club pools.' Lillis suggested he was willing to meet Club officials to discuss how Internet betting could benefit all parties. 'I have put it to several jockey clubs around the world that we could build turnover up by creating interest, in return for a commission on percentage of turnover. I have a number of strategies which I would be pleased to speak with the Jockey Club about, but I am well aware of the views of the Jockey Club and the Government in Hong Kong and I don't think we can make any progress until they change their attitude.' CentreRacing's move into the Hong Kong market was 'a natural progression' following its introduction of fixed-odds betting on Singapore and Malaysia earlier this year, Lillis said, and he added that Macau was the next target. 'We made overtures to the Macau Jockey Club and they were quite hostile, so we have decided to go it alone. They not only rejected our approaches, they are also trying to find my staff on the ground so that they can take action against them. 'The Jockey Club in Singapore is not as vocal, but there is an undercurrent of opposition. In Malaysia we haven't encountered serious problems.' The Hong Kong Jockey Club is pinning its short-term hopes of stemming the offshore drain on the amendments to the Gambling Ordinance currently under discussion in Legco, which seek to outlaw Internet betting by Hong Kong citizens. But Lillis, who also has interests in mining, property development and racehorse breeding, said CentreRacing would continue its operations in the face of new legislation. 'We ask that all clients follow the laws of their own countries, but the suggestion of unregulated and uncontrolled gambling is wrong,' Lillis said. 'We have arguably the heaviest regulation in the world from our Government here. Australia is second-to-none when it comes to regulation of wagering. We have an array of controls which we put in place ourselves such as limits on the amounts of money punters can wager with us - all adding up to a very controlled environment for punters to wager in.'