Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli yesterday urged lawmakers to keep an open mind on proposed legislation that would allow overdue tax reform to revitalise horse racing. He was speaking a day after the Legislative Council's home affairs panel met to discuss the club's proposal, which seeks to reverse eight years of negative growth in turnover and claw back some of the $50 billion-plus of illegal bookmaking. The reforms would make betting more attractive to punters, with turnover tax on bets replaced with a profits tax. But legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo warned that the reforms would exact 'a hefty social cost'. Albert Chan Wai-yip said at least 100,000 people would be lured to the racecourse and away from their families on the extra race days, and James To Kun-sun claimed the package of reforms sought 'to hoodwink us'. At Sha Tin racecourse yesterday, where he presided over the highly-successful Champions Mile meeting, Mr Arculli responded firmly. 'I understand there are concerns, but there is already an enormous social cost to illegal gambling, not the least cause of which is the illegal bookmakers' willingness to give credit,' he said. 'At the moment, with a take-out of 17.5 per cent on win, place and quinella betting, the Jockey Club is simply not competitive against these operators. 'In the wake of these reforms, if accepted, the Jockey Club's wagering will be priced much more competitively. In one sweep, it would wipe out two-thirds of the bookmakers' price advantage.' The Jockey Club estimates the new tax model would see it garner 30 to 40 per cent of the illegal market. Mr Arculli said another issue was the ability of horse racing to compete with other forms of wagering, such as sports betting and casinos. 'If you look at what's happening in the region, there is a growing acceptance that gambling is a soft dollar for governments. People are willing contributors to a gaming tax. By comparison, in this modern era, the take-outs on horse racing are just far too high.' Mr Arculli again stressed that the Jockey Club was a major advocate of responsible gambling. 'If there is more we could do, such as putting a warning on betting tickets ... we would look at it.'