The race horses are worried. The steep GST of 28 per cent has turned out to be a handicap for them. Earlier, one win would ensure the maintenance of a horse for an entire year. Now, the tax has brought pressure on horses and trainers to win every race. The Bangalore Turf Club, the highest revenue generating one in the country, wants the Centre to rein in GST. The tax is strangling horse racing as betting turnover is plummeting. The turf club has recorded a sharp decline in its profit from over 2,000 crore to 900 crore in just one year. Horse racing is now seeing a reverse trend from a thundering gallop to a trot, thanks to GST.
A shrunken tote means a domino effect on the club. The stakeholders say that eventually, everyone will lose: The government, the punters, race horse owners and the race clubs. “It’s a no-win situation. The GST Council has failed to understand the sport. With GST being levied on the entire bet value and not on the commission, everyone is facing losses, including the government,” said Hari Mohan Naidu, chairman, Bangalore Turf Club. The government thought that this tax would actually curb corruption and bring in more money. “But reality is that the government is also losing as this is leading to a huge spurt in the number of illegal bookmakers. Government should seriously give it a thought and look at the falling revenues,” said Zeyn Mirza, Managing Director, United Racing and Bloodstock Breeders Ltd. “The legal bookmakers under invoice. Illegal bookmakers give better returns. That collection never goes to the government,” Mirza added.
This is a sport subsidised by the punters. What is the incentive for them to patronise horse racing anymore? asks horse owner and punter Sharath Narayana. “If I go to the race club and bet a thousand rupees each on ten races, I pay 2,800 as tax irrespective of whether I win or lose. I own horses and I know the pain of what goes behind breeding and training,” he said. The GST has brought a tremendous pressure on the trainers. V Lokanath Gowda, president, Karnataka Trainers’ Association, said, “Every loss for the owner is a 10 per cent loss for us. I used to train about 50 horses two years ago and earn about 1 lakh a month. Now, I train only 30 horses and earn only about 40,000.” The only hope which the chairman of the BTC sees is that the club has approached the high court in February this year. “We are hoping we won’t see an end to the sport of kings,” he said.