The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) reported record race betting handle in its most recent fiscal year thanks to international wagering nearly doubling.
This past Sunday (16) marked the end of the HKJC’s 88-day racing season, during which total wagering topped HKD 117.4b (US $15b), a 10.7% improvement over the 2015-16 season total and a new record high for Hong Kong’s betting monopoly. It’s also a reversal from 2015-16, which saw local racing turnover dip 2%, the first such decline in eight seasons.
The 2016-17 year did benefit from five additional mid-week race meetings, although HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges was quick to point out that this amounted to only 22 additional races. In a true apples-to-apples comparison with last year’s 83 meetings, turnover was still up 6.9% year-on-year.
Engelbrecht-Bresges credited the HKJC’s expansion of international commingling as the real driver of the past year’s turnover growth. Total commingling turnover in 2015-16 was HKD 3.47b ($440m) or 3.3% of total handle, while the 2016-17 season saw commingling turnover leap 87% year-on-year to HKD 6.5b or 5.7% of the total. Engelbrecht-Bresges said the increased international interest in the HKJC gave him “significant optimism” for the monopoly’s prospects in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The HKJC’s total gross margin was also ascendant in 2016-17, rising 7.2% year-on-year to a record HKD 4.77b, a result Engelbrecht-Bresges called “particularly pleasing.” The extra bounty will allow the HKJC to make a record tax contribution of HKD 13.1b to the local government, a full HKD 1b higher than in 2015-16.
The 2016-17 season closed out on a high, with Sunday’s total race-day turnover hitting HKD 1.86b, a new record for an 11-race meeting. The day’s commingling turnover was also a single-day record at HKD 183.4m. There were nearly 37k fans packing the stands on Sunday, although average attendance for the year was flat at 24,600.
The HKJC also operates the sports lottery and Mark Six lottery products, and football betting was credited as the HKJC’s “key revenue driver” in its 2015-16 performance. The HJKC’s overall performance for the 2016-17 year won’t be released for a couple more months.
The HKJC’s record-setting performance clearly put Engelbrecht-Bresges in a good mood, as his comments accompanying the numbers made no mention (for a change) of the internationally licensed online betting sites that also take action on Hong Kong races.
In April, the HJKC’s security chief Martin Purbrick was appointed chairman of the Asian Racing Federation’s Anti-Illegal Betting Task Force (AIBTF), which aimed to strike terror in the hearts of international rogues such as Citibet, although little has been heard of the AIBTF’s progress since its launch.