Posted on: January 19, 2024, 10:30h.
Last updated on: January 19, 2024, 10:52h.
The Macau government has announced the termination of its contract with the Macau Jockey Club (MJC), effectively ending horse racing in the gambling hub.
Secretary for Administration and Justice Cheong Weng Chon told reporters this week the termination was by mutual consent and would be effective from April 1. The Macau Horse Racing Company, which runs MJC, had been experiencing financial difficulties since the pandemic. It asked the government to be freed from the contract last year.
Cheong cited the “impossibility of aligning horse racing activities with the current developmental needs of society.”
“Considering that these activities have progressively lost their appeal to local residents and tourists in recent years, the government, after thorough research, decided to accept the application from the Macau Horse Race Company,” he said Monday.
The land presently occupied by the club, including the Taipa Racecourse, will be returned to the government, which has no plans to offer tenders for racing in the future.
The writing had been on the wall for some time. In 2022, the club reported accumulated losses of US$261 million, and it had recently been forced to shave the number of races from 15 per day to just five because of its weak financial position.
Despite the diminishing popularity of horse racing in the gambling hub, MJC remains one Macau’s biggest private employers with around 800 full-time workers and 300 part-timers. The government said these employees would receive severance pay in accordance with the law.
Meanwhile, MJC has agreed to transport its horses to other locations by March 31 next year.
The jockey club signed a 24-year contract with the government in 2018. At the time, it pledged to invest millions into improving infrastructure and expanding its offerings, none of which materialized.
Cheong said the government would now conduct research on possible uses for the facilities. Lawmakers have previously raised the possibility that the track could be transformed into a stadium for international sports events.
MJC has held the exclusive rights to offer horse racing and horse betting in Macau since its formation in 1980. The club was initially formed as the Macau Trotting Club with the aim of popularizing harness racing in Asia. But harness racing failed to take off in the region and the club pivoted to thoroughbred racing.
In 1991, it was acquired by the Macau Horse Racing Company, a consortium led by late gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, who held the casino monopoly in Macau until 2002.