Janney III: After hearing that report, it's evident that the UFC takes anti-doping very seriously and is taking the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of competition and the health of its athletes. Thank you, again, Jeff, for an excellent presentation.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is widely considered one of the leading racing organizations in the world, and anyone who has experienced Thoroughbred racing in Hong Kong would surely agree with that sentiment. Today Winfried Engelbrecht Bresges is going to tell us a little bit about the past, the present and the future of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Winfried, thank you for coming a long way. I'm sure your body doesn't know what time zone you're in, but you're in our time zone and we're very pleased to have you here. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges: Stuart, Jim, ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and in Hong Kong it would be now good night. And I would like to thank The Jockey Club for the kindness to invite me. I would like to congratulate The Jockey Club for its visionary leadership of the horse racing industry in the U.
We did a similar exercise in the Hong Kong Jockey Club around 17 years ago, and I would like to share the story of how we in a way tried to improve the quality of racing in Hong Kong, and how we in a way besides a global sports product of racing, how we focused on customer centricity to turn around a business which was in decline.
A little of our history. If you look at , the Crown provided kindly money to have a malarial swarm drained. The Jockey Club itself was founded and was an objective to improve horse racing. If one looks in the real development of horse racing in Hong Kong from a global perspective, I think a historic date is , when The Jockey Club decided to go from amateur racing with ponies to professional racing with Thoroughbreds.
The development paved the way that there was only before betting allowed on the racetrack, but there was a huge illegal market outside of the racetrack. We started with around 20, and we have now around on the island of Hong Kong and the new territories in the Sha Tin area. The Happy Valley racecourse was designed for holding around 20, to 25, people.
Sha Tin is a racecourse that can hold over 85, We relocated the training from Happy Valley to Sha Tin, and the impact of this development is shown. Sha Tin was a village with 30, people. The whole infrastructure to connect the city with the racetrack was instrumental that now Sha Tin has grown to one of the big towns in Hong Kong, with around , people living there.
What we have done in a way always as a club is that we see ourselves for the betterment of Hong Kong. The second is our membership club. Then we have a significant wagering and lottery business. And the charity and community aspect we stand for. Every race meeting we have around 12, people working during the race meeting to provide a wonderful show.
The membership: we have one of the premier membership clubs in Asia. We have 24, members, and it is in a way a privilege to be a member of the club and is highly sought after. Therefore we have put processes in place to ensure a due diligence and integrity check of everybody that wants to become a member. And the reason is the ownership in Hong Kong is linked with the membership of the club, and we want to have only fit and proper people who have the right to own horses in Hong Kong.
And in we got the right to get the Mark Six lottery, and in due to a rampant illegal market related to football, we got the permission of football betting. And we have 4. If you look at our account base, we have 2. Looking at our total turnover, last year we had a total turnover of So why in a way does the government give the club the right to channel it?
They think that we have the most effective way of doing it. And if you look at the tax contributions last year, our tax contributions were 2. Horse racing is a major share with 1. We pay the highest gross profit margin tax in the world. Looking at us as an organization, we are the largest charity benefactor in Hong Kong, and if one looks at our contribution, it reaches from schools, hospitals, it goes into football stadiums where people can enjoy.
We are ranked now the No. Last year we donated million U. So we think in a way that is one of our major roles, but our soul, our heart is definitely in horse racing, and some people may think we are a sole operator so we are a monopoly, so we have the luxury of being in a way not competitive. We compete with a massive illegal market. Most of the illegal market is focused and centered in the Philippines with the illegal exchanges on sports betting, which is a massive integrity issue which we want to tackle.
The illegal turnover on our races is likely, in this area, similar to us. So we in a way were still able, despite the significant increasing competition, to ensure business growth, but let me only briefly share about our racing side in a way how we started international racing. The first international race was in with six runners, three from Malaysia and Singapore. We then started directly opening up some races where we had in the end three international races, and in we had only one horse in the international classification called Johan Cruyff.
At that time, Hong Kong racing was only a betting racing product. If we fast forward to , I think the results we have achieved of our strategy we think are satisfying. We have now in a way, if you look at , we had one horse in the international classification, we have now We have now two of the top horses in the world ranking in Hong Kong.
Our flagship event is the Hong Kong International Races, and the quality in a way and the worldwide attraction of the races is really best demonstrated by the success of this event. The sprint, the mile, and the cup have the highest prize money in the world, and the 2, meter races are No. We attract every year 30 horses from all around the world, southern and northern hemisphere to participate.
And let me in a way show you a short video to show you how the International Races are run in Hong Kong. I think the question that would be interesting to ask is how we in a way went within practically 18 years from a regional racing organization to one of the world leaders, and I think the strategic mission and leadership, especially of our chairman at that time, Alan Li, was essential, who in a way under his leadership where we articulated the strategy.
And one has to put this under the background that there was a change in sovereignty from being a British colony to become a Special Administrative Region in China, so we decided to strategically position us as Hong Kong, which is really in the interest of Hong Kong, and in a way to have a profile which allows us future global growth.
We wanted to provide customers with unlimited access to information. We did not want to have the result of races influenced by medication. In our strategy in the race planning, we focused on races on turf, distances between 1, to 2, meters, the clear focus on distances from 1, to 1, We had the majority of the races on as group races. But in a way we have for OS handicaps, the group races we have every three, four weeks, major races in a way to have our top horses participating regularly.
And to optimize the business results, we focus on field sizes between 12 and 14, which are ideally for Happy Valley and for Sha Tin. To drive this performance, we created significant owner incentives, because owners are the key stakeholders and the key drivers of development.
We have now probably the highest prize money in the world on average per race. And if you look in a way only at the prize money we have now for the Derby, which is 2. One of our restrictions is we can import only horses per year, which are allocated by ballot. And the average waiting time now to have a horse in Hong Kong is three to four years.
We are very clear that unlimited access of information about horses is important: the health status, how the horses are treated. What is the training? The highest level of integrity is that we think we employ one of the best integrity teams in the world, being the racing control, being on a racing level. We have developed digital tools which are probably unprecedented if you look at horse monitoring of a race.
We have in a way invested heavily in our racing lab, which some people say is probably the best or among the three best equine labs in the world. To drive the performance people are important, we introduced performance criteria for trainers. If you do not fulfill certain performance criteria, you have to show cause why you stay as a trainer in Hong Kong where we have a limited space.
We did the same with jockeys. We in a way try to attract really the best horsemen in the world and we do the same with our management team and our staff. Following that outbreak, the club formed a pandemic response team, which was activated shortly after news of a mystery virus originating in Wuhan began to surface at the beginning of the year. In the weeks that followed, the club closed its offtrack betting sites that dot the city and limited attendance at its Chinese New Year race, its most popular annual event, to about 8, people, less than a tenth of the usual number of spectators.
The club implemented strict procedures for entry and exit to its sites, and instituted temperature checks. Deliveries had to be dropped outside a cordoned-off area. Spouses and family members who lived with employees—whose jobs could bring them into contact with infected people—were moved into separate accommodations, paid for by the club. The measures, according to Engelbrecht-Bresges, have proved effective: No staff members have fallen ill, and the lack of sporting events worldwide has put the Hong Kong races in a fortuitous position, able to provide gamblers with an event when supply is low.
Betting turnover has fallen about 3 to 5 percent, a figure Engelbrecht-Bresges seems just fine with. Others—both gamblers and the companies that court them—have not been so fortunate. Take the betting operator William Hill, which has been forced to furlough hundreds of staff. Part of the popularity of Russian table tennis, Asher said, is likely due to the familiarity of the sport, a staple of bitter sibling rivalries played out in basements and heated rec-center tournaments.
Nick, an Indiana resident who asked to be identified by only his first name because of privacy concerns, was turned on to Russian table tennis by a friend after a losing streak of 10 to 15 bets on rugby and Australian rules football. He is now gambling on video games such as the first-person-shooter-game Call of Duty and League of Legends, a fantasy battle game. When mainstream sports return, though, did he plan to continue wagering on the matches?
President Donald Trump recently bemoaned the lack of sports, saying that he was tired of baseball reruns during a recent press conference as he pushed for lockdown measures to be eased and for life to return to a semblance of normal. Few, if any, leagues have their employees living in an area that can be cordoned off, the outbreak in Hong Kong has been far less severe than elsewhere, and sports that are dependent on fans filling stadiums must precariously balance public-health and business concerns, he said.
Metivier, the Canadian sports bettor, told me that he had to scrap a trip to Las Vegas with friends for the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, and that he had spent months compiling a betting guide to Major League Soccer, work that appears, for the moment, to have been futile. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic.
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