There were fears that the Tote, that much-loved old racing institution, would disappear from British tracks for good after Betfred’s Fred Done withdrew his support for the betting system.
But there was finally good news with Britbet announcing they have signed a £50m deal to take on the pool-betting favourite and revamp the brand in the process.
The team behind Britbet and the Alizeti consortium, who owned the rights to the Tote name, came together on Tuesday to sign on the dotted line in a merger, of sorts, that will run until 2025 at the earliest.
The Tote branding will remain on UK racetracks, and all tote bets will be fed into the same pool, which should help to increase interest among the punting community and thus prize funds into the bargain.
The previous Britbet branding will now be retired.
Green Shoots After Dark Days
It would be fair to say that the sale of the Tote to Fred Done back in 2011 was never met with universal acclaim.
While he paid £265m for the privilege, and promised to pump more funds into UK racing, many of Done’s critics suspected that he wanted to use the Tote branding to funnel more traffic into his Betfred shops. Latterly, it is believed that he wanted to add the Tote’s high street shops to his own empire.
But now that seven-year monopoly on pool bets is over, an the coming together of the new parties is essential in halting a decline which has seen the Tote’s share of betting turnover reduced significantly.
The Alizeti consortium bought 25% of the Tote from Done, and they were left seeking investment to purchase the rest of the share. Britbet’s introduction will boost the coffers and ensure control of pool betting is taken back from Done’s monopolisation.
The good news is that now the vast majority of British racecourses are back on board for on-track pool betting. They include Ascot, who were going their own way with a dedicated pool system of their own in AscotBet, as well as the 55 tracks under the Britbet banner and Goodwood, Newbury and York. This will surely strengthen what were becoming increasingly weak pools, as punters’ money became spread more thinly across each offering.
Now, the picture is looking brighter for one of horse racing’s oldest institutions, which will celebrate a century in business in 2028.
A United Front
The leader of the Alizeti consortium, Alex Frost, spoke publicly about the new Tote deal this week.
“We are committed to being part of helping secure British racing’s finances for generations to come through a revitalised Tote,” he said in a statement. “This deal is another very important step forward in enabling this to happen – ensuring the sport now has a united approach to pool betting.”
In a video posted on the Together for the Tote Twitter feed, Frost asserted the deal is a ‘seismic moment’ for racing.
“A seismic moment for racing.”
Following our landmark deal with Britbet to grow the Tote, #TogetherfortheTote CEO Alex Frost talks about how investment and innovation will revitalise the Tote and support British horseracing. pic.twitter.com/bXNgJGUF1c
— Together For The Tote (@togetherfortote) 31 October 2018
“You can’t go to a racecourse and not see the Tote. It’s synonymous with racing,” he continued.
Also pleased with the new Tote deal, is Arc chief executive Martin Cruddace, who reaffirmed his belief that this will be a ‘landmark’ moment for British racing.
“This is a landmark deal for British racing and we look forward to working with our colleagues at the Jockey Club, the other Britbet stakeholders, Alizeti and, of course, the Tote to build on this collaborative approach,” he said.
“It will allow us to maximise the opportunities that a strong pool-betting operation offers British racing.”