Tote bid falters again

The long and protracted sale of the state-owned bookmaker, Tote, has hit yet another stumbling block with reports suggesting that the government has turned its back on a racing consortium.

The racing consortium, made up of the Racecourse Holdings Trust, the Racecourse Association and the Racehorse Owners Association, was prepared to offer the £400 million asking price for the bookmaker but the government are said to have concerns about the funding of the deal. The consortium financed the offer with huge borrowings from LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds TSB, leaving the government unconvinced that a sale to the consortium would benefit the racing industry.

However, the Treasury declined to comment on the matter, only saying that they “remain committed to selling the Tote and getting the best outcome for the racing industry”.

The government pledged to sell the bookmaker to the racing industry back in 2000 but their patience and keenness to uphold their promise must now be wearing thin. An attempt last year to sell the bookmaker to the racing industry was blocked by the European Commission as the price was so low it constituted state aid.

The government have also ignored the interest from overseas, Interactive Gaming Holdings (run by former Tote boss John Heaton) and Europe’s biggest gambling company, Gala Coral. Gala have previously stated they desire to get their hands on any aspect of the Tote and would be open to any number of deals.

The Tote, which comprises of 540 high street betting shops and 59 betting shops on racecourses, made a £20.8 million profit in the year to 2006 of which it gave £10.7 million of that back to racing.

Editor, - 2007-04-10 11:11:59

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