Amid the champagne, the smiles and the string quartet breaking into Congratulations, the octet of good neighbours who willingly scribbled their signatures alongside one another at Government House on Monday have proved one point - a policy doesn't have to be right, or even clever, to gain momentum. The truth is that the Good Neighbour Policy (GNP), said to be aimed at maintaining the integrity of racing and keeping out illegal operators, misses the point entirely. It's the racing world's attempt to defy gravity and craft an argument that what goes up will never come down. The man on the street doesn't have a clue about the GNP but suspects it's a case of politicians justifying their existence and he's closer to reality than they are. Take the two original signatories to the GNP - Hong Kong and Japan. If they were ever a threat to each other's racing industries, then it was a plot so ill-conceived and insignificant that no one need ever concern themselves with it. Hong Kong-Turkey? New Zealand-Turkey? India-Australia? South Korea-Singapore? None of them poses the smallest threat to each other, which is why agreeing to not encroach on each other's patch was such an easy decision to take. You can be seen to be a good neighbour and commit to nothing. Imagine that Monday's meeting featured the chairmen of the big banks and stock exchanges of these countries, mutually agreeing not to take money from overseas investors - they'd have been eight laughing-stock neighbours. Big on familiar sound bytes and posturing, the gathering did not address some of the trickier questions behind Good Neighbour. Australian Racing Board chairman Bob Charley did not get the chance to answer how Australia's position had altered - in March, he agreed in principle but stated Australia's highly fragmented administration made it difficult to sign the GNP. His signature this week certainly did not represent at least one part of Australia - the Northern Territory, where laws allow major bookmaking firms to continue to offer the very services GNP proposes to combat. And nobody brought an idea on how anyone can defend against threats from overseas when the illegal threats within most jurisdictions exist in such magnitude. The truth is, the GNP has come to prominence because of the sheer vacuum of ideas on the subject and, in the absence of real policy on the issue, drew its first breath. Together the eight Asian Racing Federation signatories account for some 60 per cent of the world's horseracing betting - in other words, they are the haves - while traditional leaders in racing, breeding and administration, like Britain, France and the United States, might be more correctly placed with the have-nots. The representative from Singapore was the only official to put it so simply when he said the GNP was to combat pirates onshore as well as off, and that is a noteworthy reminder of the lack of success in places like Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and others at conquering not the perceived threats over the sexy new internet, but the real threat which is ingrained. Illegal bookmakers have long operated under the noses of administrations in racing countries and they have such a strong foothold because legal markets tax racing too savagely. The 18-plus per cent disappearing from investments with clubs and official betting organisations is unsustainably high and the illegal market represents a successful form of competition that can heavily discount the tote and still make a profit. In Hong Kong, the illegal market is estimated to be equal to the Jockey Club's turnover. In Singapore, the estimates are that it is three to five times bigger. In Malaysia, eight to 10 times stronger. Now there's a real threat. By comparison, holdings on Hong Kong racing, for example, of betting exchanges or offshore bookmakers, legal in their own jurisdictions, is miniscule - barely a full stop in the novel of betting. These signatory nations are guilty of maintaining levels of betting taxation and commission that are no longer sustainable. In the real world, when competition comes knocking and attacks your excessive profit margin on a product, you normally respond in a commercially appropriate manner and compete back. Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli has said it himself - unless there is tax restructuring for racing, the sport will always be hostage to operators with lower overheads. And despite talk of 'gathering momentum' and the next step to the world's ruling racing body, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, there was no discussion of the current policy of world racing leader and IFHA member, Britain. Its government is openly nurturing the betting industry towards open competition and becoming the world centre for gambling - on anything and everything, everywhere - and there is not a snowball's chance in hell of the British signing the GNP if it even gets that far. While GNP may have been a fashion parade of the emperor's new clothes, opening day at Sha Tin gave some genuine encouragement for a rise in racing's stocks. Sure the $98 million Triple Trio carryover was the backbone of the mathematical positives, but the jackpots in the Double Trio and Six-Up Win Bonus pools had little impact on those pools. The rest of the card was a small but genuine advance on last year, including a surge of interest in the featured Chief Executive's Cup, and any good news is worth embracing. Chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kong said last week he did not feel opening day was a real guide to the season's turnover, though recent history shows it to have been a signpost, albeit with the direction correct, not the mileage. The coming fortnight will give us more of a handle on whether this is a false dawn or the season where things do turn around, however modestly, in line with what seems a growing worldwide confidence in economic recovery.