Many spectators on the issue of betting in China, including this very site, have been sensing a shift in the attitude specifically toward betting on horse races for several years now.
This has coincided with our observation of the sport’s growing popularity in general. With last year’s unveiling of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new racecourse in the province Guangdong – where betting, for now, remains illegal – these suspicions have only intensified, and rumors of changes in betting policy have begun to spread.
The new racecourse is quite impressive considering the fact that the practice of horse racing is still growing in mainland China. There were already 120 horses living on site as of last summer, all of which had to be specially transported in order to be kept in prime health.
Facilities include four tracks, enough stables for 660 horses, and a veterinary hospital, among many features. And given its scale, it makes sense that this spot has been seven years in the making. Meanwhile, the construction of the venue by a Hong Kong organization in the Guangdong province also has a slightly political nature, with agreement on the project being considered a benchmark in the two states’ cooperation efforts.
Amidst the excitement about this racecourse’s emergence, it hasn’t escaped notice that should the racing industry be allowed to expand naturally, it could lead to China beginning to compete with other nations’ large, celebrated racing occasions (and all that goes with them).
For example, the Melbourne Cup in Australia usually attracts over 100,000 attendees each year, and causes much of the nation to stop and celebrate in recognition of an actual holiday; the Royal Ascot in the UK is such a fancy and refined affair that the British Royals attend – yet still accessible enough that the Ascot betting markets online generate international activity.
This kind of enthusiasm in countries like the UK and Australia has turned horse racing events into cultural traditions that everyone knows about and wants to attend, and the same could be true of races in China if the industry is allowed to flourish.
Racing at the new venue actually started in March of 2019, and some spectators rightly noticed that the events seem nearly identical to those held in Hong Kong, with the exception of betting. In fact, television broadcasts for these March races were all significantly delayed to prevent people from betting on the races.
This frankly doesn’t seem like it can continue in the same fashion, which leaves us all wondering whether laws will indeed change to allow for a complete horse racing experience, betting and all.
The economic and tourism benefits surely are putting pressure on China to adopt more lenient gambling laws, perhaps similar to those of Hong Kong.
Still, as previously mentioned, this shift has seemed to be in the process of taking place for about half a decade now, without any concrete results. With this in mind, it may yet take several years for a full horse-racing culture to be realized in China – despite the clear benefits of such a culture, and the visible momentum in that direction.