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Hong Kong Jockey Club confirms it will resume racing in the mainland this year

The Jockey Club has confirmed it will resume racing in the mainland with an exhibition meeting at Conghua in October – ideally alongside a “China edition” of the Asian Racing Conference to help showcase it.

Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding announced the plan to show off the HK$3.7 million facility to its international counterparts as part of his presentation on the major developments and current strategies into racing in China at the 38th ARC in Cape Town.

After racing at Conghua – with no betting – for the first time in March 2019, the second meeting scheduled for October was initially postponed, and then cancelled, amid the social unrest in Hong Kong.

But Harding said the Jockey Club intends to return early in the 2020-21 season.

“There are very interesting developments taking place in the mainland and we really are at a point where it would be useful for the international community to give a special focus to the development of the industry [there],” he said.

“The concept that will be considered by the [Asian Racing Federation] executive council is holding a forum to do just that in conjunction with the world-class exhibition race meeting that we will conduct in October of this year.”

Harding also highlighted an idea to build off the existing equine disease-free zone that encompasses Hong Kong and Conghua – which allows horses to move freely between the two places – and expanding it to include the Greater Bay Area of Guangdong and Macau to create a quarantine hub.

“In terms of future development, one area that is being explored is the possibility of this infrastructure in the Greater Bay Area to be complimented by the development of a quarantine station,” he said.

“A quarantine station could really take a very exciting new direction in terms of enabling the Greater Bay Area to be an epicentre for the horse industry in the mainland.

“[It could enable] horses in the mainland, for example, to achieve international health status by a process of quarantine, coming into the equine disease-free zone and then potentially being able to travel overseas to compete, [or] potentially being able to compete at Conghua.

“Our trading partners can have confidence that horses that have been in the mainland, if they’ve been in the equine disease-free zone, are able to be accepted with as much confidence as always existed for horses coming from Hong Kong to major racing jurisdictions around the world. There are many exciting possibilities that exist around that.”

Earlier on the final day of the conference, Harding implored all of the ARF members to join forces with their respective governments to help combat the growing problem of illegal betting.

“A key theme of the conference has been tackling illegal betting, which crucially depends on engagement with government and a key dimension is the way the regulated wagering operator is treated in particular in terms of taxation and take out rates,” Harding said.

“In a number of Asian Racing Federation jurisdictions taxation is cripplingly high and they are the same countries which have the largest illegal betting markets. Beyond that, we have been examining this week how racing can unlock potential and in so many cases that depends on government approvals on a range of things, including whether off course wagering and online wagering is allowed and approval to enter into separate pools and simulcast arrangements.

“In particular, the holy grail of international commingling depends on approval to link pools and agreements from governments not to double tax. These are critical issues.”

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