The Hong Kong Jockey Club believes it will claw back HK$12 billion in horse race betting turnover from illegal bookmakers in the first full season following passage of betting duty changes in the legislature last month. Yesterday, the club announced the introduction of a 10 per cent rebate on losing bets for high-volume players, with a threshold set at HK$10,000 on four popular types of bet. However, the club will still take 17.5 per cent from all win, place, quinella, quinella-place and double bets when the season begins on September 10. Henry Chan Shing-kai, executive director of betting, said the move was solely designed to make the Jockey Club more competitive with the illegal bookmaking market, which he estimates has a turnover of between HK$50 billion and HK$60 billion a year on racing. The Jockey Club's horse racing turnover for 2005-06 was HK$60 billion, so HK$12 billion would represent an increase of 20 per cent. 'By combating the discount offers made by illegal bookmakers, we believe that the rebate programme will effectively attract those customers targeted by the illegal market,' Mr Chan said. 'We believe we can get back at least 10 to 20 per cent of the illegal market - and we hope it will be more. 'The most pressing thing is to try to claw back some of the money that is currently being bet with illegal bookmakers. This is our focus.' Illegal bookmakers pay bettors Jockey Club dividends, with rebates generally of 10 per cent but sometimes as much as 15 per cent on losing bets. 'The rebates will enable the club to recapture a share of the illegal betting market, and thereby protect government revenue and maintain the club's current level of support for charities and the needy,' Mr Chan said. The Betting Duty (Amendment) Bill changed the way horse racing is taxed, from the traditional levy on turnover to a gross profits tax. It also gives the club increased freedom to respond to the market and competition from other forms of gambling. Mr Chan said there would be no social cost to the rebates, as smaller bettors were unaffected by the moves and therefore would not be influenced to change their betting habits. 'If there has been any social cost, it has been caused by the illegal bookmakers and this move is directly targeting them,' he said.