Hong Kong Jockey Club urges Australia to target Asian online betting giants

australia-hong-kong-jockey-club-online-betting-sbobet-maxbet-citibetThe Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has waded into the Australian government’s contentious review of its online betting regime.

Last week, The Australian reported that the HKJC had made a secret submission to the Australian government, which is due to release a report this month on how best to deal with competition from international gambling sites not holding Australian licenses, as well as whether to lift the longstanding prohibition of online in-play sports betting.

The HKJC’s submission, not so subtly titled Illegal Betting Markets and Links with Organized Crime, claimed that the integrity of Aussie sports and racing was under threat by Asian-licensed online bookmakers and their alleged “links with transnational crime syndicates.”

The HKJC submission singles out several Asian betting giants by name, including SBOBET, IBCBET (since rebranded as Maxbet) and the CITIbet betting exchange. The HKJC’s filing claims SBOBET and CITIbet received 40k visits from Australian IP addresses in the six months to September 2015, and that CITIbet’s Australian racing turnover is around 8% of the sum wagered with Australian-licensed tote operators.

Australia’s racing industry has adamantly opposed the notion of relaxing the Interactive Gambling Act’s restriction of in-play wagers to phone betting or in-person with a domestic retail point of sale. Aussie-licensed online operators have retaliated by calling the online in-play ban antiquated and intended to benefit the entrenched interests of land-based operators.

For the record, this isn’t the first time the HKJC has gone off on CITIbet. In November 2014, the HKJC singled out CITIbet for cannibalizing the HKJC’s race betting turnover. CITIbet insiders rejected these claims, saying the Philippines-licensed exchange was actually responsible for driving much of HKJC’s turnover by informing punters as to which nags the sharps were backing.

The HKJC’s desire to enlist a foreign government’s help in beating back its international competitors may have more to do with the company’s financial outlook. Last month, the HKJC warned that the struggling Chinese economy was likely to cause the HKJC’s betting turnover to fall for the first time in the past decade.

HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said turnover during the current season’s first 40 meetings had been up slightly year-on-year but he expects China’s economic slump to result in a net decline of between 3% and 5% by the time the HKJC’s final numbers are counted.

The HKJC clearly doesn’t relish the end of its winning streak, which has seen annual turnover rise by 80% to HKD 105b (US $13.5b) over the past 10 years. The HKJC holds a monopoly on race and sporting betting in Hong Kong, just as Macau holds a monopoly on casinos, while mainland Chinese bettors must make do with the welfare and sports lotteries.