Bookmakers bidding for Tote remain tight lipped


tote-final-fenceThe final field is now set for the Handicap hurdle Grand Gold Cup Derby with the field of a dozen including a number of bookmakers, private investors, par-mutuel providers, a charitable foundation, and a man who’s held a number of the world’s top jobs.

Friday marked the final chance for bidders to enter the running and with the field now set, it’s worth looking at some of the prospective bidders and what their chances might be in acquiring part if the UK horse racing market.

First off, we’ll get to the foreign-based bidders of which there are three, all of whom look to be massive outsiders to take over the Tote. The Independent quotes one betting industry source as saying: “It won’t really look that good if the Government sells to a foreign operator from a country which shuts out British betting companies.” Since the three bidders are PMU from France, Churchill Downs from the USA, and Phumelela form South Africa it would appear they aren’t getting their Tote anytime soon.

The other groups in the running are the private investors; with former British Airways and Liverpool FC chairman Martin Broughton the marquee name amongst them. Broughton was also once chair of the British Horseracing Association, something he hopes will add weight to his consortium. Recently departed Ladbrokes CEO Chris Bell heads up another group hoping to acquire the business, and Andy Stewart is a prominent racehorse owner. Reuben Brothers are unrelated to racing, something that may be of an advantage to them.

Then there are the bookmakers.

Four have thrown their hats into the ring, each one hoping to cross the line in first place. Sportech, owner of the Football Pools business, are one such company who has been very public in stating their intentions to bid for the tote. Other than what they have said before, Sportech had nothing more to add when we contacted them for comment.

Betfred meanwhile are an interesting bidder to look at. The company has, in the past, got into quite the dust-up over Turf TV’s formation some time ago. In relation to the bid itself though, Betfred’s finance director Barry Nightingale said: “We can confirm that we have put forward a compelling proposal which we believe addresses the Government’s objectives whilst providing long term support to the horse racing industry.

“We believe our proposal will create significant opportunities for the enlarged Betfred group to grow and develop, and will create attractive employment opportunities for both Betfred and Tote employees in the enlarged group.”

The third bookie, Paddy Power, would be quite the coup for the horseracing industry was it to take over control of the Tote. Their penchant for eye-catching stunts and successful advertising campaigns could mean a successful future for the Tote and being one of Ireland’s most successful exports they should not be discounted. Unfortunately when contacting them for a comment they weren’t able to reply at this stage.

Finally, one of the old stagers, Gala Coral, has put in a bid for the Tote. One of England’s traditional bookmakers it’s not thought they have the power to take on some of the stronger bids involved. They, again, weren’t able to comment at the time the article was published.

Last, but by no means least, is the bid from the Tote themselves to turn the company into a Charitable Foundation. The Tote and racing at large vehemently oppose all of the bidders above and feel that this would be the best course of action to take. Unfortunately for them it’s unlikely to make the government anywhere near as much money as they need, and this is reflected in them being rank outsiders. Totesport PR Manager George Primarolo wasn’t able to give us any comment when asking about the sale of the Tote.

With most of the contenders staying tight-lipped, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out before the government’s decision in January. The close nature of the contest means putting money on it is a very attractive proposition indeed – which is where Bodog come in. As an article in the Independent points out, they are offering odds on the runners and riders, gladly accepting your wagers over at their site.