SINGAPORE — The Singapore Turf Club, the city’s lone horse racing club founded in 1842, has announced its closure by March 2027.
This decision follows a joint statement from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Ministry of National Development (MND), pointing towards a substantial decline in local horse racing spectatorship and an opportunity to repurpose the land to meet Singapore’s future land use needs.
Spectatorship at the Club has seen a steady decline over the past decade, plummeting from an average of 11,000 spectators per race day in 2010 to about 6,000 in 2019.
After the racecourse’s reopening in 2022 following COVID-19-related closures, the average attendance fell further to about 2,600 per race day, according to Second Minister for Finance and for National Development, Indranee Rajah.
This trend, she noted, is not limited to Singapore but reflects a global downturn in horse racing spectatorship.
The sprawling 120-hectare site, located in Kranji, is slated to be transformed into a residential zone with potential for leisure and recreational amenities. The last race at the venue is scheduled for 5 October 2024, followed by a phased closure process.
The approximately 700 horses maintained by the Club are set to be exported by 2026. Both horse trainers and owners will receive support for the maintenance and exportation of their horses, assured Ms Indranee.
Addressing the financial implications of the Club’s closure, Tote Board Chief Executive, Fong Yong Kian, noted that each race currently contributes approximately S$400,000 to the Board’s earnings.
The total annual turnover of the Tote Board stands at S$1.1 billion as of 2023. However, the proportion of revenue derived from horse racing has about halved, mirroring the drop in spectatorship.
Following the closure, Singapore Pools will continue offering betting on overseas horse racing, confirmed Mr Fong.
Club promises support for retrenched staff
Approximately 350 employees of the Turf Club will undergo phased retrenchment over the next several years, starting in about 16 months.
The Club has pledged a comprehensive support package for the affected employees, which includes a retrenchment package, career guidance, and skill-training courses.
The decision was communicated to staff on Monday morning during a town hall meeting. Niam Chiang Meng, Chairman of the Turf Club, revealed that the atmosphere following the announcement was understandably solemn.
Mr Meng committed to ensuring a smooth transition for everyone involved, including employees, horse owners, and other stakeholders.
Representatives from the Singapore Manual & Mercantile Workers’ Union (SMMWU) were also present at the meeting. Secretary-general Andy Lim expressed concern over the emotional impact on the workers, particularly older employees.
Mr Lim emphasized that the union is in discussions with the Club regarding the best ways to address these concerns and the specifics of the retrenchment benefits.
Redevelopment of site
The site’s redevelopment is expected to contribute significantly to the northern region of Singapore’s broader development plan, including the expansion of the Woodlands Checkpoint and the transformation of Lim Chu Kang into a high-tech agri-food sector.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will approach the redevelopment with a “clean slate” mindset, considering the unique characteristics of the area and its surrounding greenery, including the Kranji Marshes and Mandai Wildlife Reserves.