Hong Kong Jockey Club warns Betfair Australia as racing row escalates

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has demanded that Betfair Australia ‘immediately cease and desist’ from offering a betting exchange on Hong Kong racing over beliefs that offering such an exchange ‘represents a serious integrity issue’. 

On 21 August 2019, Betfair Australia announced that it would be offering the exchange which was due to commence with the Sha Tin race meeting on 1 September 2019. 

Since the announcement, however, the Jockey Club has claimed that the exchange has acted ‘without prior consultation with the Club and in the absence of the Club’s permission and license’ and has since released a letter to the exchange.

Offering the exchange has been branded “a serious integrity issue and an equally serious infringement of its intellectual property rights” by the Club.

The letter detailed: “It is apparent to us that Betfair’s conduct confirms that it intends to free-ride on Hong Kong racing by exploiting the Club’s racing product in the absence of any commercial or integrity agreement with the Club. 

“We consider that such conduct can fairly be described as cavalier, unconscionable and in reckless disregard for the economic value of a premium international racing product. It is plainly inconsistent with Betfair’s apparent focus on integrity and transparency, and good corporate citizenship.”

In the letter, the Jockey Club has explained that it believes the decision to roll out a betting exchange on Hong Kong racing is closely linked with the introduction of point of consumption taxes in Australia, which ‘is suppressing Betfair’s turnover on the markets its currently offers to its customers.’

It has been emphasised, however, that “changes in the regulatory and taxation environment in Australia and commercial pressures on Betfair’s profitability are not justifications for Betfair to appropriate Hong Kong racing for its own purposes, especially when this is against the content originator’s express wishes”. 

The letter added: “Betfair made their announcement via Twitter and Youtube without prior notice to the Club, and we were first made aware of it by the media. The Club is making public the enclosed letter to Betfair to let the media and the public understand the Club’s zero-tolerance towards issues relating to integrity and intellectual property rights.”

At the time of Betfair Australia announcing a betting exchange, Betfair Australia chief executive Tim Moore-Barton emphasised that the integrity of the exchange will not be compromised. He pointed out that fears of such an occurrence are unnecessary, as it will offer stewards access to detailed information about who is betting on what to help police the sport, differentiating itself from illegal exchanges.

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