In Hong Kong there is one organization that is tasked with oversight of thoroughbred racing. This is the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The prestigious organization has worked hard to make horse racing in Hong Kong the most popular sport and betting activity in the region. What you may not know is that the club also raises millions of dollars each year for charity. Here is a deeper look at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
A Part of Hong Kong Racing History
The Hong Kong Jockey club was created in 1884. It exists as an amateur body that has a primary goal of promoting horse racing in Hong Kong. Like the Jockey Club in the United States, the original membership of the club was limited to the upper class. The club has also always sought to ban the inclusion of members that have a questionable background. This rigid restriction on membership unfortunately led to some poor decisions in the earliest days of the club’s existence.
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Chinese members were not permitted until the 20th century. This seems odd today given that Hong Kong is under Chinese rule, but in the early days of the Hong Kong Jockey Club the British controlled the region. In their way of thinking, horse racing was a British spectacle that the Chinese had no interest in. The early influence of British aristocracy left an indelible mark on horse racing in Hong Kong.
It wasn’t until 1971 that the club became a professional institution, despite being issued a Royal Charter from HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. The club began to organize racing carnivals that corresponded with the Chinese New Year in the 1970s. At that time the club also received its financing from bets that were made in private clubs.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has moved beyond hosting horse racing at its two race tracks, Happy Valley and Sha Tin. The 2005 Olympics held all of its equestrian events at Sha Tin in the New Territories.
Today the Hong Kong Jockey Club is responsible for the racing meets at Sha Tin and Happy Valley. It is also the only authority in Hong Kong that is permitted to offer wagering on sporting events. It is illegal to bet with bookies in Hong Kong. The club takes in billions of dollars each year in revenue from horse racing gambling, much of which is used to support various charities.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is the only national horse racing committee that makes charitable giving a part of its business model. The club even functions as a non-profit corporation. This interest in supporting charitable causes can be traced to the 1950s when Hong Kong was dealing with post-war reconstruction. At that time the region also faced a severe immigrant crisis. It was decided in 1955 that the club’s surplus revenue would be donated to charity and community projects throughout Hong Kong.
In 2014 the club donated a record amount of HK$3.6 billion to local charities. The charities that benefit are engaged in things like education, arts, and elderly services. Who could have imagined that so much good would come from betting on horses? Even though many bettors never consider that portions of their wagering dollar are being used to fund charities, it is nice to know that betting on horses is responsible for much good in Hong Kong.
A Betting Monopoly
One reason that the Hong Kong Jockey Club is able to raise so much money for charity is that the organization has a betting monopoly in Hong Kong. This monopoly is legal and covers bets on horse racing and football. The first off-track betting parlors for Hong Kong horse racing at Happy Valley were opened in 1974. There are now more than a hundred such betting parlors throughout Hong Kong. Players can wager on horse racing, football, and also purchase Mark Six lottery tickets.
Since 2002 it has been illegal for any resident or visitor in Hong Kong to place a bet with a bookmaker. This is in sharp contrast to the British influence that was responsible for the club’s creation. It has always been customary in UK and Australian racing to place bets with a bookmaker on the track. Some bettors in those areas also prefer to bet with unlicensed bookies in order to get better odds on their chosen horses.
There is one advantage to having a single institution control the betting in Hong Kong. Bettors can have more confidence that they are being treated fairly and that all betting is on the level. Since there are no bookies to take bets, betting at Hong Kong race tracks is all handled through the tote board system. This means that it is possible for online racebooks to offer betting from Hong Kong.
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