Last gallop marks termination of Macau’s horse racing industry

Lea Hogg 2 weeks ago
Last gallop marks termination of Macau’s horse racing industry

Macau will today witness the end of an era when the city’s horse racing industry will be consigned to history as the government terminates the Macau Jockey Club’s (MJC) concession to operate racing. This decision marks the end of a sport that has been part of the city’s heritage for over four decades.

Joe Lau, a racehorse trainer who has tied his career to the fortunes of the MJC for three decades, is among those who will feel the impact of this closure. He recalls the glory days, such as his sweep at the 2004 Hong Kong-Macau Interport Series, but now feels “depressed” about the end of an era.

The MJC held its first thoroughbred races in 1989, under Portuguese rule, and the sport found success after a takeover in 1991 by the late casino tycoon Stanley Ho, nicknamed the “King of Gambling”. However, in recent years, the MJC — chaired by Ho’s fourth wife Angela Leong, (pictured above) — saw attendances fall and racked up losses exceeding 2.5 billion patacas (US$310 million).

Impact of decline

Geoff Allendorf, another long-time trainer in the city, notes the decline: “In the late 1990s we were flying, we had 1,200 horses. At the present time we’ve got 200. That says a story in itself”. Despite the warning signs, some trainers and owners were taken aback by the 11-week window between January’s closure announcement and the end of racing.

The termination has raised concerns about the welfare of horses and the livelihoods of those employed in the industry. Trainers, jockeys, and stable staff have written to Macau’s leader demanding compensation for their lost livelihoods, saying the club’s 570 employees would be dealt a heavy blow. Owners are negotiating with club management over costs of transportation and relocation, which must be completed before April 2025.

Jason Tam, an owner with a stable of six in Macau, is leading a group of owners seeking compensation from the Jockey Club. He criticizes the management, saying, “This place is falling apart, this is what happens with poor management”.

The termination of horse racing in Macau signifies a significant loss for the region, both economically and culturally. It highlights the need to respond effectively to social entertainment trends and ensure that the industry remains attractive to the entertainment market.

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