MANILA, Philippines -- Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Racing Commission has taken steps to ensure that the horseracing industry remains on the right track.
"We were able to survive," said Philracom chairman Reli de Leon during the Philippine Sportswriting Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
De Leon even predicts that 2021 will be a fruitful year for their industry, as well as the betting public.
"We will grow even bigger than what we expect," said De Leon, who was joined in the forum by Philracom executive director Dr. Andrew Buencamino and his deputy Ronald Corpuz.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, races were cancelled for six months last year. But they managed to hold big events towards the end of 2020 and regain a semblance of normalcy.
"So far this year, we've had sales of around P500 million. And we expect the sales to reach P3 billion by December," said De Leon.
Races are held from Thursday to Sunday with the schedule evenly divided among the country's three race clubs -- Manila Jockey Club, Inc. in Carmona, Cavite; Philippine Racing Club, Inc. in Naic, Cavite; and Metro Manila Turf Club, Inc. in Malvar, Batangas.
De Leon said the off-track betting (OTB) stations are fully operational and that Philracom has also gained headway with its online or digital betting where even Filipino racing aficionados known as "bayang karerista" based abroad can bet on the races.
"Our online betting has improved from 3 percent of the total sales last year to 18 percent this year. Even our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) sa barko (seamen) nakakataya," he said.
Because live audiences remain prohibited, races can be seen or watched live through different platforms.
Major races are on tap for the rest of the year, starting off with the Commissioners' Cup on Sunday at Carmona with a guaranteed purse of P2 million.
Scheduled on June 20 is the Chairman's Cup at the MMTC in Batangas followed by the country's Triple Crown version in July, August and September, the Classic Cup, Juvenile Cup in September, Silver Cup in November, the prestigious Presidential Gold Cup on Dec. 12 and Grand Derby on Dec. 26.
"If we are looking at P2.8 billion to P3.2 billion in sales this year, we are targeting P5 billion next year," De Leon also said.
For that to happen, however, the government will need to make some adjustments in taxes for the horseracing industry -- something that the leadership of Philracom is fervently hoping for.
As it is, the 29.5% tax on total sales in the country is the highest in Asia, even higher than Hong Kong at 16.3% or Singapore at a manageable 20%.
"Sa buong Asia, tayo ang pinakamataas. We're hoping for an amendment on this. Kahit iparehas na lang nila sana sa Hong Kong or Singapore," De Leon said.