The Hong Kong Jockey Club suffered a HK$28.792 billion hit to turnover for 2019-20, its annual report has revealed.

In a year like no other thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and the social unrest in the city, the club reported an overall 11.6 per cent downturn in racing, football and Mark Six betting.

Turnover across the three codes totalled HK$218.749 billion for the 2019-20 financial year, down from HK$247.541 billion.

As a result, the club’s overall “contributions” – including betting duty and profits tax – also fell 12.6 per cent to HK$25.256 billion, but charitable donations were up 5.8 per cent to HK$4.5 billion, thanks to a HK$346 million commitment to tackle Covid-19’s impact in Hong Kong.

People bet on the Mark Six.

The biggest downturn came from football betting, with the Jockey Club losing 3,273 matches worldwide as a result of the postponement or cancellation of matches because of the pandemic.

In total, football betting turnover was down 18.8 per cent to HK$92.6 billion.

With the Jockey Club halting the Mark Six lottery in February, its turnover plummeted 39 per cent to HK$5.161 billion.

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Racing turnover only dipped 3.2 per cent, thanks to a HK$4.374 billion boost in international turnover from the Jockey Club’s commingling partners around the world.

The HK$23.276 billion wagered through commingled pools in 2019-20 marks the most ever and caps a remarkable rise, with just HK$3.477 billion bet by international customers in 2016.

In all, HK$120.99 billion was wagered on Hong Kong racing last season.

Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges talks to the press at Sha Tin.

With racing able to continue through the pandemic while most sports around the world ground to a halt, Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said it proved how the sport is entrenched in Hong Kong culture.

“Racing is an important symbol of Hong Kong and its can-do-spirit, not to mention the vital support it provides through tax and charity funding,” he said.

“We were therefore determined to keep racing going. This commitment was no less strong among horse owners, trainers and jockeys, backed up by the club’s employees.”

Chairman Philip Chen said he was proud of the club to be able to keep operating in such trying circumstances. “We maintained our core racing, wagering and membership operations. We kept our customers, members, employees and licensed personnel safe and protected. Above all, we stayed true to our purpose. In short, we did what was right for the club and what was best for Hong Kong,” he said.