Tote bookmaker finally set for open auction

In a saga that has dragged on longer than a day with your mother-in-law, the state-owned bookmaker, the Tote, is set to be auctioned off to the highest bidder by the Government.

The Government have failed to receive an acceptable offer from a racing consortium after pledging to sell the bookmaker to the racing industry in 2001.

The consortium, made up of Tote management staff, the Racecourse Association and the Racehorse Owners Association, has had several bids rebuffed by the government because they simply so not match up to the market price of the Tote set at £400m by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

If, as expected, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe confirms that the Tote will go up for auction today, then the government can expect a backlash from the racing industry – whether justified or not – from going back on their pledge.

Front runners in the bidding will be Gala Coral, who have repeatedly stated their interest. But the details of the sale will ultimately determine who can and will be interested.

If the Tote goes for sale as one entity, then expect the big gambling companies to be sniffing around. But if the sale involves the Tote splitting up, expect bookmakers such as Paddy Power and BetFred to be interested in the 540 high street betting shops, with William Hill and Ladbrokes set to be excluded on competition grounds.

Editor, - 2008-03-05 11:12:08

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