Jockey Club facing the blues

The future of horse racing in Macau appears to be hanging in the balance, with growing concerns among trainers, officials and stakeholders that the Macau Jockey Club (MJC) may soon lose its right to operate racing events in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

However, TDM reported late yesterday that the company has already set the starting date of next season: Sept. 29. And that any disputes with 82 employees will be settled swiftly.

This troubling situation has emerged against a backdrop of significant challenges facing the industry, including a dramatic decline in the number of horses, dwindling race frequencies and financial losses.

According to reports from the Asian Racing Report, Macau’s horse population has plummeted from a peak of 1,200 two decades ago to a mere 220.

This sharp reduction raises questions about the sustainability of horse racing in the region.

Furthermore, the number of races held annually has dwindled from 1,200 in 2003, which was more than Hong Kong hosted at the time, to just a single meet with a handful of races each week. This significant drop in race frequency has raised concerns about the vitality of the sport in Macau.

Adding to these concerns are claims made by MJC employees who assert that the organization has not expanded its workforce post-pandemic and has halted the recruitment of new staff altogether. These employment trends may reflect a larger issue of financial strain and uncertainty within the club.

One of the pivotal moments that has heightened anxiety surrounding the future of horse racing in Macau is the belief that the upcoming season finale could be the club’s last.

Despite the MJC’s claims earlier this year that it had undertaken renovations, including upgrading horse swimming pools, stables, the main racing building’s first to fifth floors, and some racetrack improvements, there remains an atmosphere of uncertainty. A trainer expressed concern to the Asian Racing Report, highlighting the lack of information about next season’s meetings and speculating about possible staff cuts. Clarity is eagerly sought after by all stakeholders.

The situation was further complicated when a shipment of 30 horses from Australia bound for Macau was halted in July, reportedly on orders from Macau authorities. This incident has raised eyebrows and deepened the sense of uncertainty surrounding the industry’s future.

These challenges have emerged in the context of deteriorating financial performance for the MJC, which reported accumulated losses of MOP$2.1 billion (US$260 million) through 2022, representing a MOP$200 million (US$25 million) increase over the past year. Horse racing revenue also declined, dropping to MOP$39 million (US$4.8 million) in 2022 from MOP$47 million (US$5.8 million) in 2021.

In 2018, the MJC had committed to investing MOP$1.5 billion (US$186 million) to upgrade facilities, including hotels and restaurants, in exchange for the 24-year extension of its concession until August 31, 2042. This extension was a significant departure from the shorter-term extensions it had received in previous years. The hope was that this extended concession would allow the MJC to address its financial woes, which had seen the Macau Horse Racing Co accumulate losses every year since 2005, totaling MOP$4.1 billion (US$507 million) by 2016.

Staff reporter

Categories Headlines Macau