Macao, China’s Gambling Hub, Hosts Final Horse Race, Closing 40-Year Tradition

China’s gambling hub of Macao holds its its final horse race, ending a tradition of over 40 years

After more than four decades of thrilling races, Macao’s historic horse racing track held its final events on Saturday, marking the conclusion of a beloved sport in a city renowned for its towering casinos.

Back in January, the municipal government announced its decision to end its long-standing contract with the Macao Jockey Club, effective April. The move came following a request from the Macao Horse Race Company, which highlighted operational hurdles among the factors necessitating the track’s closure.

On Saturday, the stands, though only half-filled, buzzed with eager gamblers placing their ultimate wagers. Even some curious tourists made their way to witness the historic occasion.

Mai Wan-zun, a mainland Chinese student studying in Macao, expressed her desire to soak in the unique atmosphere. “We could experience horse racing here in Macao, but not back in mainland China,” she remarked.

Macao, China's Gambling Hub, Hosts Final Horse Race, Closing 40-Year Tradition
Macao, China’s Gambling Hub, Hosts Final Horse Race, Closing 40-Year Tradition (Credits: Coast Reporter)

For Helena Chong, a resident of Macao, it was both a debut and a farewell as she stepped into the racecourse for the first and last time. “It’s saddening to witness the end of this era of gambling and entertainment,” she lamented.

Horse racing in this former Portuguese enclave has grappled with financial woes in recent years, exacerbated by the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to earlier reports from the Macau News Agency, the jockey club had incurred operating losses exceeding $311 million.

As part of the termination agreement, the horse racing company committed to facilitating the transportation of owners’ horses to alternative venues by March 2025, while ensuring compliance with legal obligations concerning its employees, the government clarified.

Across the border in neighboring Hong Kong, horse racing continues to thrive as a popular and lucrative pastime. The city’s jockey club oversees a spectrum of betting activities and stands as a significant contributor to numerous charitable endeavors.