Equestrian events are becoming popular with affluent Chinese.
The Jirem Horse Racing Festival, for instance, took place in the Inner Mongolia city of Tongliao in August. Lang Lin, owner of Inner Mongolian Rider Horse Co Ltd, won a more than 200,000 yuan ($32,573) grand prize after his riders won seven gold medals out of the total number of nine races.
Lang, who owns over 800 horses, is one of several equestrian entrepreneurs who is profiting from a growing interest in horseback riding among China’s nouveau riche. In 2007, there were fewer than 100 polo clubs in the country; last year, that number rose to 1,200 and continues to grow at a rate of about 30 percent a year.
But while the number of polo clubs is on the rise, their profits are another matter. The low number of Chinese who can ride and play is keeping the sport from being lucrative. That will change, Lang says, as horses become more popular in the country.
“In China, riding and watching polo is just starting to become a trend, and many will also buy horses, just as they have dogs, cats and other pets at home,” he said in an interview with China Daily.
In any case, Lang’s company has been a great success, generating 50 million yuan in revenue last year, a figure he expects to triple this year. The business also garnered a net profit of 20 million yuan in 2013. Three venture capital companies have noticed the company’s “huge market potential” and contributed 170 million yuan to Lang’s business ventures. Managing a horse club is an expensive undertaking, however; Rider Horse’s horses, mostly imported from New Zealand, cost about $20,000 each, and monthly boarding expenses total 3,000 yuan.
Complicating efforts to establish an equestrian sector in the Chinese market is that fact that betting on horse-racing is currently outlawed in the country. If the ban were lifted, horse-betting could generate 100 billion yuan, with 40 billion yuan in tax revenue every year, according to Qin Zunwen of the Hubei Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
Pan Bingyou, a former executive at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, also notes that horse-betting would create jobs and strengthen the Chinese economy.
“Football lotteries are allowed now in China, so I see no reason why a horse-betting event can’t happen in China,” Pan said. “If approved, an estimated 3 million jobs could be created.”
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