Agreement opens up huge pools for punters in Britain
Punters in Britain will be able to bet into the massive pari-mutuel pools in Hong Kong from Wednesday lunchtime following an agreement between the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) and the Tote.
Starting with Happy Valley's meeting, the betting shops and online platforms of Betfred, Coral and Ladbrokes will accept bets on the HKJC's tote pools, although fixed-odds betting will not be available.
There is however no sign of comprehensive reciprocal co-mingling between Hong Kong and the UK being introduced.
Totepool managing director Phil Siers said it would be a "soft launch" with other bookmakers involved in Tote Direct expected to come on board in future.
SIS will distribute the live broadcasts while the Hong Kong cards will be on Racing Post digital products as well as in the paper and betting shop display edition.
The HKJC's executive director, customer and marketing Richard Cheung said: "Given its tremendous legacy in the sport of horseracing, it is a great pleasure to welcome the UK to our expanding list of co-mingling jurisdictions."
The HKJC said it anticipated agreements with more UK betting operators in the coming months and is also involved in talks with with At The Races and Racing UK.
Its co-mingling director George Irvine said: "This deal ensures Hong Kong racing will be available in thousands of retail betting outlets while future agreements we are finalising will enable later delivery direct to millions of U.K. households.
"Meanwhile, the placement of Hong Kong race cards in the Racing Post will reliably inform punters in a familiar style."
The pools in Hong Kong are huge. Last month HK$126 million in pari-mutuel bets on a class four sprint at Happy Valley (£13.27m) had to be returned when the race was declared void due to a stalls malfunction.
Siers said of the deal: "We're delighted that we are starting work with the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
"At this stage it's from the UK into the Hong Kong pools but hopefully in due course that will be extended when legislation allows having reciprocal co-mingling."
The introduction of co-mingling with Hong Kong had been expected earlier this year but was delayed by technology issues.
However Siers said: "We've made the investment in technology to make sure our pools are compatible with Hong Kong so we can seamlessly co-mingle.
"It's a soft launch really this week and then as we pull interest in we are expecting to offer this to all our Tote Direct customers online and offline."
There has been no resolution yet in the dispute between the Tote and South African operator Phumelela over co-mingling.
The Tote had terminated the reciprocal arrangement earlier this year but talks are still ongoing to remedy the situation.
Siers said the Tote were maintaining the existing co-mingling arrangements "until at least the end of this month".