The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has closed seven off-track betting facilities (OTBs) and delayed the relaunch of Mark Six lottery draws after a resurgence of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in the Chinese special administrative region.
Initially, the HKJC had planned to open all of its off-course locations on 13 July in preparation for finale of the Hong Kong racing season on 15 July.
However, the Club said the “worsening Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong” necessitated the closure of betting shops at Lucky Plaza and Sha Kok Street in Sha Tin, Tropicana and Wan Fung Street in Wong Tai Sin, the Tsz Wan Shan Shopping Centre, Choi Wan and Des Voeux Road West.
The HKJC’s remaining off-course betting locations will remain open, but betting services for football, self-service machines and the “caring heart” community service will all also be suspended.
All customers entering these shops will be required to take a temperature screening and wear a mask, while hand sanitiser will be provided and “special measures” will be in place to ensure distancing between customers.
“We will continue to monitor the Covid-19 developments and decide whether more [OTBs] are required to temporarily suspend business,” the HKJC said.
The Mark Six draw, typically held three times per week, was initially going to resume on 21 July, having been suspended in the first wave of Covid-19 from 1 February.
However, the Club said “the latest worrying development of the Covid-19 situation does not facilitate us to resume Mark Six draws as scheduled”.
The HKJC said this was due to the large number of customers who would be expected to descend on off-course betting shops in order to buy tickets, with as many as 500,000 customers expected to purchase tickets compared to around 130,000 expected for racing bets.
“This heavy traffic will pose a serious public health concern to our [OTBs] under the current worsening Covid-19 situation,” the Club said. “We would like to ask for the understanding of our customers that we have decided to postpone the resumption of Mark Six draws until further notice.”
In addition, the HKJC will also postpone its end-of-season Champions Awards Ceremony and Dinner.
Last month, the HKJC appointed Philip Chen, a member of the Club since 1987, as its new chairman and also named Michael Lee as deputy chairman. Chen succeeded Anthony Chow, who served as chairman for two years.