By JEREMIAH SEVILLA
The Philippine horse racing industry is slowly but surely getting back on its feet amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the green light given by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the “Sport of Kings” to resume along with the emerging online betting platform.
Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom) Chairman Aurelio “Reli” De Leon bared that they are gradually hitting their target sales for this year through digital betting on the websites of the three horse racing clubs in the country.
“As of now, we are still adjusting. But as I told you, we are targeting P2.8 to P3 billion sales this year. Last year we only had P1.1 billion sales because of the pandemic,” de Leon said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, May 18.
De Leon, who was named as the 12th Philracom chairman last December 2020 after serving as a commissioner since July 2019, said that their sales grew from three percent in March last year to 17 percent in March this year with the emergence of their online betting sites.
By July, Philracom is eyeing to hit the 30-percent mark especially with the more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ) allowing off-track betting shops with compliance to health protocols in the NCR plus bubble.
Major events have already been lined up for the calendar year at the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona and Sta. Ana Race Track in Naic both in Cavite as well as the Metro Manila Turf Club in Malvar, Batangas.
The Philracom will host the P2 million-Commissioner Cup at the San Lazaro race track this coming Sunday while the Chairman’s Cup will be held in June at the Metro Manila Turf.
The Philippine Triple Crown will fire off from July to September along with the Classic Cup even as the Juvenile Cup will be organized from August to November. The Silver Cup and a proposed PSA Cup will be scheduled on November 7 at the San Lazaro track.
Capping off the busy year is the Presidential Gold Cup which will stake the biggest horse racing prize in Philippine history at a minimum of P5 million, shattering the previous record of P3 million.
With numerous events happening this year to help the industry continuously recover from the effects of the pandemic, Philracom is appealing for the amendment of tax laws on horse racing.
“Horse racing will still grow bigger than what we expect today. Sana lang po pakinggan din po ‘yung hiling namin na sana i-align lang ‘yung tax na kinukuha sa horse racing industry today comparable sa Asian racing industry,” he stressed.
“Napakataas po ng tax natin ngayon. Kung may maibaba po natin ‘yan sa tamang numero, mas lalaki ‘yung benta natin, mas lalaki ‘yung contributions natin sa gobyerno at mas mabibigyan natin ‘yung mga charitable institutions,” he added.
Philracom executive director Ronald Corpuz bared that 29.5 percent of their sales goes to tax, way higher than Hong Kong’s 16.5 percent and Singapore’s 20 percent.
De Leon said that they are already appealing to the Congress and Senate to amend the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law which has provisions that affect the racing industry through the increase in the tax on prize winnings and documentary stamp on wager tickets.
“Before the TRAIN law, bumibenta kami ng 7 to 8.2 billion pesos. Noong nagkaroon ng TRAIN law, bumaba kami sa 5 billion,” said De Leon, “Kung wala ‘yung TRAIN, mas malaki ang mabibigay naming contributions.”
“Actually nag-request na po kami sa Congress at Senate para po amyendahan ‘yung tax para po lumaki ang industry in proportion at marami pong matulungan na charities at madagdagan ang employment.”