The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been closely following the development of the novel coronavirus. We are also well aware of public concerns over the health risks associated with crowds and the potential impact on the upcoming Chinese New Year Raceday scheduled for 27 January 2020.
With this in mind, the Club has carefully reviewed arrangements for Chinese New Year Raceday, taking account of community views as well as the interests of customers and employees. We are particularly aware that Chinese New Year Raceday is a very important part of community life during the Chinese New Year holidays, providing racing and betting entertainment to around one million racing fans.
The cancellation of the Chinese New Year Raceday would therefore not only impact those who choose to visit the racecourses but all those who stay at home or elsewhere to enjoy the races on TV or via other platforms. Indeed, some 800,000 fans, that is the overwhelming majority of fans, hold a betting account with the Club and are able to participate in racing outside the racecourses via online and phone platforms.
In addition, the Chinese New Year Raceday creates jobs for as many as 11,000 part-time employees and provides additional income for duty racing staff. Any cancellation of the race meeting would therefore have an adverse economic impact on our employees. There will also be impacts on horse owners, trainers and jockeys, who will be unable to race or ride horses.
Considering all of these factors, the Club has decided that Chinese New Year Raceday should go ahead, but with a reduced attendance and with measures in place to strengthen hygiene protection. On the day, apart from essential parties such as horse owners, trainers, jockeys, Club officials and Stewards etc, only those customers who already have a prior reservation at racecourse restaurants will be admitted.
Patrons who wish to cancel their bookings will be given full refund. Other racecourse facilities such as betting halls, media halls and digital zone will be closed. This means that approximately 8,000 customers will attend the race meeting, these customers being distributed in 54 restaurants and boxes spread across two racecourses. According to medical experts, the level of health risk is not higher than visiting restaurants in shopping malls. All customers will receive temperature screening before entry and will be advised to wear medical masks.
In consequence of this arrangement, the number of part-time employees working at the racecourses will be reduced from 11,000 to 3,000. Like all staff working on the day, these will receive temperature screening before entry and will be advised to wear medical masks. The remaining 8,000 part-time staff rostered, but not required to report duty, will receive a discretionary payment in compensation for their loss of earnings.
With respect to Off-Course Betting Branches (OCBB), to avoid potential crowding the Club has decided that they will not open for business on Chinese New Year Raceday. However, all Interactive, Telebet and 1886 Telebet Automated services will continue to function as normal.
The Mark Six Chinese New Year Snowball draw originally scheduled for 28 January will be postponed to 1 February. All accepted bets remain valid.
The above arrangements for racecourses and OCBBs will continue for all subsequent race meetings until further notice. The Club will continue to monitor the situation of the novel coronavirus on a day-to-day basis and in line with this will determine if further measures are needed.