Thursday, October 08, 2009
My First Hong Kong Jockey Club Experience
No, this doesn't refer to my first bet at Mark Six.
Upon winning a Web Award for a luxury property agency, I got invited to a race day buffet dinner at Hong Kong Jockey Club with Belle and the rest of BeansBox. That's the time I got a closer look at the city's horseracing industry for the first time in nearly nine years. One of the world's biggest and one of Hong Kong's oldest, Hong Kong Jockey Club hosts about 700 races a year on its Shatin and Happy Valley racecourses.
As guests we were required to stick a badge within the dining premises. The buffet venue offers spectacular views and very close to the finish line mark. As the only non-Chinese in a round table of about 15, it's reasonably easy to feel awkward, not to mention that this is my first time to visit this place. But the feeling of warmth of getting invited into this members-only-are-allowed club is just great.
In between races, I can imagine that horseracing has been in the blood of Hong Kong people for decades. The club was established in 1884 and have probably witnessed the ups and downs of Hong Kong throughout the years. Local people treat this as twofold: enjoy the game with the company of friends and family as well as potential to earn big bucks.
Race day is a big deal to many Hong Kong people. There are TV channels devoted to horseracing and motorists have to deal with perpetual traffic rearrangements to accommodate race day patrons.
HKJC's presence is a big help to many. While seen as a mere gambling outfit, with interests in horse racing and football betting, it contributes a lot to Hong Kong economy and its people. It is Hong Kong's biggest taxpayer, with contributions of HK$13.1 billion in 2007-08. It is also one of Hong Kong's biggest employers, with 4,800 full-time and 20,200 part-time staff. And its charity contribution benefits a diverse group of recipients. HKJC contributes HK$1 billion a year on education and training, community services, medical and health and sports, culture and recreational causes.
If you see people outside betting stations armed with horse racing guides and tips, sitting in their dozens, waiting for an apparently good combination, go inside and place their bets. Others place bets on the phone, an intricate procedure I am still trying to find out.
I joked with my colleague Pippen that bettors on a race day is like children on an exam day. Both groups study hard, and outcomes are strikingly similar. If you study well, you get good results.
At the end of the day, some of us placed bets on both favored and unfavored horses. With high probability of losing than winning, nobody won any. A lesson that I long keep in mind was affirmed. It's not No bets, no glory. No bets, no worry.
Photo credit: Michael McDunough