Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) is to keep all its off-course betting branches closed indefinitely, despite originally planning to allow the venues to reopen from early August.
The news comes in response to a sharp increase in cases of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in the jurisdiction, which shares a land border with China where the spread of the virus began in late 2019.
Total cases of the virus in Hong Kong have increased some 267% in around six weeks, from 1,234 on 1 July, to 4,525 on 17 August.
HKJC’s betting branches were originally closed in February, around the beginning of the pandemic, however they reopened briefly on 22 June.
Between this date and 19 July, customers were able to place bets, manage accounts and make deposits and withdrawals in-branch, in line with safety measures including social distancing and the use of masks and hand sanitizer stations.
However, a resurgence in cases of Covid-19 forced the shops to close once again in July, with plans to reopen them early in August, before the latest extension.
Despite difficulties caused by the pandemic, HKJC reported 2019-20 as its third most successful season in history, as it saw revenues bolstered by international and online growth.
It reported that total racing turnover in the season that ran from 1 September 2019 to 15 July 2020 was HK$121.6bn (US$15.7bn/€13.8bn/£12.2bn), a 2.6% decline from the previous season.
While turnover dipped by almost 26% in early February, wagering rallied through the latter part of the season and climaxed with a record HK$1.6bn being taken in the season finale at the Happy Valley course on 15 July. There was a slight increase in the number of local races year-on-year with 828 compared to 812 in 2018-19.
The first meeting in the HKJC 2020-21 season is currently expected to take place on Sunday, 6 September, with the season expected to run until 14 July 2021.