The most obvious thing about Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kong at the end-of-season press conference on Sunday night was change of tone from one season earlier. Last year, the Jockey Club hierarchy was polite, respectful but relatively shy about blaming an unsympathetic government for the fact that Hong Kong racing had just suffered its sixth straight year of negative growth. Now that sequence has been extended to seven, with annual horseracing turnover down to $65 billion and there is still no sign of the folk at Treasury doing anything to rescue the future of Hong Kong's single largest taxpayer. So now, Wong is talking tough. The scan of fire has been broadened significantly, and it was interesting to see Wong's message make the foreign wires, thereby gaining newspaper, television and radio coverage all over the world. Yes, momentum is building. In 12 months, the CEO has gone from effectively suggesting reform might be a good idea to demanding it. Despite the muscling-up of his approach, some think Wong wasn't tough enough, that he backed off from revealing to the world that the Jockey Club has given the Hong Kong government a guarantee to maintain taxation income for two years if overdue wagering reform goes through. Instead, Wong settled for the promise - some may say threat - that next year's turnover on horseracing will go down by even more than this year's nine per cent if the government again fails to act. From a peak of $97 billion at the end of the 1996-97 season, the post-handover era has seen 33 per cent wiped off the annual handle of Hong Kong racing, a business whose entire bottom line goes to the charities of this great world city. When, you are entitled to ask, does such a backward slide become a crisis, if not after seven years? If a government had been the major contributor to such a contraction in an organisation of comparable significance in the western world, the fallout could possibly cost it the right to govern. If the Jockey Club has guaranteed that wagering reform will, at a bare minimum, prevent further loss of government revenue (although it is actually predicting substantial growth), how can the government continue to do nothing, a position which guarantees further loss? Isn't that the absolute definition of dereliction of duty? However, in Hong Kong government and public service circles, there seems to be precious little understanding that failing to make key decisions - for selfish reasons related to one's own political career - are the gravest sins of omission.