Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mongolia proposing to legalize horse racing

Mongolia’s historic association with horses should have been enough reason for it to boast its own professional horse-racing league, but no. Now the country’s government is planning on setting one up as the first step in eventually legalizing race betting.

According to Bloomberg, the government is looking to approach the Hong Kong Jockey Club with a proposal to have its jockeys and horses take their racing up north to Mongolia during Hong Kong’s two-month off-season. But critics are already saying these jockeys and horses need the time to recover from a grueling 10-month season.

Even if the Hong Kong Jockey Club spurns the invitation, Mongolia’s Culture Minister Oyungerel Tsedevdamba believes her country needs to snag some of the lucrative Asian jockey business. “Our priority is to make the legal environment for a jockey club operation so that we can have a market share,” she said, adding that its proposal is based heavily on the rules of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Mongolia’s growing openness to horse racing and betting reflects a need to diversify the country’s overall economy. Mongolia has long been known to be a resource-reliant country but its commodities are becoming more and more expendable in the eyes of the foreign market.

Mongolia looks dead serious about passing this legislation. “[Mongolia] is developing,” Jan Wigsten, founder of Nomadic Journeys, an Ulaanbaatar-based tour company, told Bloomberg. “It is normalizing in the global sense and the institutions are becoming stronger, which is necessary with gambling.”

Already, the government is planning to build horse-racing track close to a new airport under development near the capital of Ulaanbaatar. Should a law to allow horse betting be approved, it would mark the first time since a casino closed in 1999 that Mongolia would allow any form of gambling in the country.

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