Horse racing: Singapore Turf Club to increase coronavirus precautionary measures at racecourse

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Turf Club (STC) will increase precautionary measures by introducing segregated zones for its visitors in light of the coronavirus, it said on Wednesday (March 18).

Other new moves, which take effect on Friday when the night races are held, include limiting the number of punters allowed into the 133ha site in Kranji on race days and operating only alternate counters to ensure greater social distancing.

The STC told The Straits Times the limit is not fixed and dependent on several factors like size and density of the crowd, movement of visitors “as well as crowd control and adjustments as the situation evolves from race day to race day”.

It will also open more counters to reduce queuing and encourage customers to either use the self-betting kiosks at the Grandstand or for those with Singapore Pools accounts to place their bets online and avoid visiting the racecourse.

The STC added: “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will adapt our precautionary measures with the changes in the situation. The club is committed to continue to operate our business in a safe and responsible manner.”

When ST visited the racecourse last Sunday (March 15), there was a thermal scanner at the entrance but many patrons – who pay a $6 (EZ-Link or Cashcard) or $8 (cash) entry fee – did not have to register their entry, despite the STC website indicating it as a requirement for contact-tracing purposes.

Throughout the afternoon’s 10 races, hundreds of mostly middle-aged and older punters mingled and moved freely between the open-air viewing gallery area and indoor air-conditioned Grandstand areas. Loud chants, often in hokkien, rang out whenever the thoroughbreds were on the final straight heading for the winning post.

Part of the club’s additional steps will be to establish four separate sections – Grandstand Level 1 North and South Zones, Level 3 and Level 4 – and barring customers from moving between these zones.

The Singapore Government on March 13 announced further measures to stem the spread of the Covid-19 disease. These included postponing or cancelling ticketed cultural, sports and entertainment events with 250 participants or more.

For events that have already been committed to, organisers must demonstrate that satisfactory precautionary measures have been put in place before they can proceed.

Punters ST spoke to on Sunday said they were satisfied with the provisions taken by the club. A woman in her 60s, who declined to reveal her name, said: “I have been gambling on horse racing for 20 years but I haven’t been here for a while. I just thought to come here because I was bored at home.

“I understand there is a risk of catching the virus, that’s why I’m wearing a mask. It would not be good if I pass it on to my grandchildren at home.”

Another patron, a middle-aged man who wished to remain anonymous, noted: “The temperature screening is a good enough measure, although it would be good to keep track of who has entered the Turf Club just in case.

“We just have to be responsible for ourselves. If we are not feeling well, we shouldn’t go out. But if we are well and healthy, life must go on.”

Several high profile local sporting events like the International Champions Cup football tournament, Singapore Badminton Open and HSBC Women’s World Championship golf event have been impacted by the pandemic.

Horse racing around the world has also not been spared. All British races have been stopped until May 1 while races in Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the United States are closed-door events.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s turnover fell about 25 per cent when the restrictions were first put in place, reported South China Morning Post, though that figure has improved in recent weeks.

The STC and Singapore Pools are governed by the Tote Board. According to the statutory board’s latest annual report, turnover for horse racing was $1.058 billion for the 2018/19 financial year, a drop from the $1.134 billion collected in the previous year.

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