The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) is doing record business as pandemic travel restrictions deter gamblers from spending their money in Macau casinos.
The HKJC is setting records for betting turnover in the early days of its current season and CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges says COVID-19’s impact on local punters’ willingness to travel to Macau casinos is a key factor in the racing operator’s wagering surge.
The HKJC is coming off one of the worst seasons in its lengthy history but its initial meeting at the Sha Tin Racecourse earlier this month set an opening day record and the good times haven’t let up. Betting turnover over the HKJC’s first five meetings is nearly 5.9% higher from the same period last year. Sunday’s meeting saw local turnover rise 7% while international commingling shot up 20%
The South China Morning Post quoted Engelbrecht-Bresges saying the public’s ongoing skittishness about traveling to Macau casinos “definitely has an impact” on the HKJC’s action, as “money which would have gone to Macau stays in Hong Kong.” Engelbrecht-Bresges added that the HKJC would “keep looking at our takeout rate, etc.” to ensure the public continues to view local race betting in a favorable light.
This past weekend, the HKJC allowed a limited number of spectators back to Sha Tin provided they made advance bookings for specific venues within the stadium. The HKJC announced Monday that it would trial a similar spectator policy at Happy Valley Racecourse for Wednesday’s meeting.
The HKJC also resumed limited Mark Six lottery sales on Sunday, with the first draw to take place this Thursday. For the moment, Mark Six sales aren’t permitted at off-course betting branches (OCBB) but are available via the club’s website and Telebet hotlines.
The Mark Six product was shut down on February 2 after the HKJC shut its OCBB operations due to the pandemic. The OCBB began reopening last week with requirements for all guests to observe health and safety rules laid down by the local government, but their operations are currently limited to race betting only.