Hong Kong closes off-course betting shops again

17 July 2020

Hong Kong’s off-course betting shops are to close again from this weekend until August due to the worsening of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) situation in the Chinese special administrative region.

Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) said its 100 off-course betting branches (OCBB) will close from 19 July until early August.

The kiosks will remain open on 17 and 18 July to provide services including betting account deposits or withdrawals and cashing-in of vouchers or winning tickets. Football betting services will not be available.

HKJC said the decisions have been made “in view of the worsening Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong, after balancing public health risks, the safety of staff and customer needs.”

The announcement comes two days after the end of the Hong Kong racing season, with Wednesday’s finale at Happy Valley generating record revenue of HK$1.6bn (€181.3m/US$206.4m) for a single event. The 2020-21 racing season does not begin again until 5 September.

The OCBBs were closed from February until 22 June, when the majority re-opened on non-racedays. Since then customers have been able to place bets on horse racing at the shops, as well as cash in vouchers or winning tickets, deposit into or withdraw funds from their betting accounts, open or re-activate accounts and set up fund transfers. However, the shops have not been permitted to process any bets on football, and the Mark Six lottery has remained suspended.

The HKJC last week closed seven off-track betting facilities after a resurgence of the virus.

Despite the closure of the shops for four months, HKJC announced this week that it recorded its third most successful season in history in 2019-20.

HKJC, which organises racing in Hong Kong and has a monopoly on pari-mutuel racing betting and overseas sport, said total racing turnover in the season that ran from 1 September 2019 to 15 July 2020 was HK$121.6bn, down 2.6% year-on-year.

The turnover on Hong Kong racing from domestic customers was down 8.3%, due to the effects of its 100 off-course betting branches being closed or operating on reduced opening from early February, and fans unable to attend the racecourse for almost half the season. However, HKJC said the closure of retail locations was mitigated by many customers switching online.