Henry Tang willing to see changes as betting drops at first meeting of season Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen proved a popular substitute for Tung Chee-hwa on the opening day of the racing season when he gave industry leaders the hint they were hoping for - that wagering reform is on the way. Mr Tang said he had been listening to the concerns of the Hong Kong Jockey Club hierarchy, who believe the industry is approaching crisis point after seven straight years of declining betting turnover. At the first meeting of the season, which attracted a crowd of 45,150 - up from 44,476 last year - Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kong reported another substantial drop in betting turnover to $766 million - down 9.3 per cent on last year's $874 million. Mr Wong added last year's opening was 'inflated' by a Triple Trio jackpot of more than $100 million, making the real decline just 1 per cent. But the Jockey Club had a 10-race card yesterday, compared with nine events last year, so the per-race turnover was actually down 10.9 per cent. Mr Tang said he had not yet received a formal proposal from the Jockey Club, but indicated he was willing to see changes which would benefit both sides. He said the tax issue was not the only reason behind the drop in revenue. The Jockey Club has proposed paying tax on gross profit rather than turnover. 'We will not rule out any proposal, provided that it would not pose too much risk on our tax revenue and at the same time allow the Jockey Club to come up with more competitive products,' Mr Tang said at the presentation of yesterday's $1.6 million Chief Executive's Cup at Sha Tin. Mr Wong said: 'Mr Tang gave us a positive response today, that he is listening to our concerns, which we were naturally pleased to hear. 'However, there are absolutely no doubts we badly need wagering taxation reform.' The turnover drop came despite the club introducing a number of initiatives to lure mainland tourists, including free entry for all passport holders, new currency exchange counters for yuan, and allowing holders of Hong Kong bank accounts to open betting accounts. The club also changed the payout rules for Triple Trio. About 2,000 mainlanders were at the first meeting and the new China Box was full of tourists. 'We are also trying very hard to improve services. But we need structural change - it all hinges on tax reform,' Mr Wong said.