The legendary Hong Kong Jockey Club isn’t happy with Betfair Australia. In fact, they recently dispatched a blistering five-page letter to its CEO.

The controversy started when the online betting exchange decided to support wagers on Hong Kong horse racing. This move threatens to eat into their profits, but the HKJC has argued that they’re more concerned with the integrity of the sport.

So what happened, and where does it go from here? Read on to find out more.

How Does a Betting Exchange Work?

If you’ve never used a betting exchange, you might be wondering how it works. Well, here’s a simplified explanation.

Instead of betting against a bookmaker, betting exchanges allow players to wager against one another. This includes both offering and requesting odds from fellow Betfair members.

With a traditional bookie, the customer is always betting on a selection to win. With an exchange, lay betting is also possible. This means betting on a loser instead of a winner.

You can post any odds that you desire. In order to get action, you just need another member willing to wager on the opposite outcome. Therefore, all bets involve someone betting on a selection to win, while the other member bets on them to lose.

Betfair Australia offers a safe and regulated locale for these wagers to take place. They also take a small commission on winnings, which is how they generate their massive profits.

What is the Hong Kong Jockey Club?

The Hong Kong Jockey Club was founded in 1884. This makes it one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the special administrative region.

This non-profit organization offers an assortment of betting options, including a monopoly on pari-mutuel wagers. It also runs a lottery, as well as offering bets on foreign football matches. The HKJC conducts nearly 700 races per year at tracks located in Happy Valley and Sha Tin.

The 23,000 members of the club, usually comprised of the social elite, also enjoy dining and recreational opportunities. Full membership to the HKJC costs around $60,000 per year. In order to join, you need an endorsement from two of the 200 voting members. In addition, you need the support of three other members.

There’s also a subsidiary of the HKJC known as the Racing Club. This organization targets younger members and carries an annual fee of $20,000. Members are taught how to place a proper bet, as well as how to become a horse owner. The latter is especially prestigious, and there’s even a four horse ownership limit in effect.

The HKJC pays more taxes than any other organization in Hong Kong. They are also a leading contributor to charities, sending out billions each year to worthy causes. However, it should be noted that these contributions are sometimes exaggerated. At least that’s what a 2018 article by the Financial Times claims.

Punters watch the Wednesday night horse races at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

How It All Started

On August 20th, Betfair Australia CEO Tim Moore-Barton announced that his company would begin offering markets on all Hong Kong horse racing. He announced a start date of September 1st, which coincided with the beginning of Hong Kong’s racing season.

According to Moore-Barton, “Our punters have been asking for Hong Kong racing for several years, and we’ve been working on it for just as long.”

In the recent opening weekend of the season, Betfair Australia earned $420,000. It didn’t take long for the HKJC to realize that this sum might have otherwise went into their pockets. Therefore, they fired off their cease-and-desist letter.

Grievances Listed in the Letter

The letter sent to Moore-Burton listed a number of grievances on the part of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The most notable complaints and/or accusations include the following:

  • The HKJC claims that Betfair Australia is operating recklessly and endangering the integrity of horse racing. It should be noted that the HKJC has continually focused on “integrity” instead of any possible monetary losses.
  • Betfair Australia made their announcement on Twitter and YouTube. They didn’t bother to inform anyone in the HKJC, and that obviously seems to have ruffled some feathers.
  • The HKJC also pointed out that Betfair Australia has not received permission to move into the market. Of course, considering that the HKJC has a government-issued monopoly, it’s unlikely that such permission would have been granted.
  • The letter also brought up Crown Resorts, the parent company of Betfair Australia. The HKJC pointed to their recent legal troubles as another possible blow to the integrity of the sport.

So What Happens Now?

The HKJC also made their concerns known to the Australian government and the Northern Territory Racing Commission. While the latter is supposed to oversee licensing of Betfair in Oz, it’s unlikely to have much effect.

China has no control over Betfair, so I expect the company to continue to offer action on Hong Kong horse racing. If you’ve been using the exchange to wager on Happy Valley, you should be able to keep doing so.