Staff and horse welfare in jeopardy

Macau horse racing heads for the finish line amidst industry shockwaves

Reading time 1:25 min

With the imminent closure of horse racing in Macau on April 1, trainers, owners, and enthusiasts find themselves in a state of disbelief. The decision to terminate the club's racing concession came in January, citing financial challenges and the sport's inability to align with the "current development needs of society."

The abrupt closure of horse racing in Macau has left the industry reeling in shock, with grave concerns looming over the welfare of both staff and horses.

The Macau Jockey Club's failed investment promises and dwindling racing schedule underscore the challenges faced by the industry.

The Macau government, citing considerations of public interest and the club's operational challenges, stands by its decision to end racing. As the final race day approaches, sentiments of nostalgia and disappointment resonate among long-time attendees and newcomers alike.

"(It's) like you felt the whole house on fire, and it shouldn't happen this way. Riding is in my blood and this is my occupation," Joe Lau, a veteran racehorse trainer with three decades of experience closely tied to the Macau Jockey Club, told AFP.

Established in 1989 under Portuguese rule, Macau's horse racing gained momentum after a takeover by the late casino magnate Stanley Ho in 1991. However, in recent years, dwindling attendance and substantial financial losses prompted concerns about the sport's sustainability.

"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," Geoff Allendorf, another long-time trainer in the city, was quoted as saying in the report. "Everybody's still in shock. It'll really hit home once we close down."

The abruptness of the 11-week window between the closure announcement and the cessation of racing has caught many off guard. Trainers, jockeys, and stable staff have voiced concerns over the livelihoods of the club's employees, demanding compensation for their impending loss of income.

Worries extend to the welfare of the horses, with negotiations ongoing between owners and club management regarding transportation and relocation costs, expected to be completed before April 2025.

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