Tote sale now open to everyone

The state-owned betting business, the Tote, is now an open auction after the government finally rejected a bid from a racing consortium, leaving the government with egg on their face.

The consortium, made up of Tote management and staff, the Racecourse Association and the Racehorse Owners Association, has found it hard to come up with the £400 million valuation put on the Tote by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is thought they could only come up with around £320 million.

That figure would be too low and would almost certainly break European competition laws as it would constitute state-aid.

There has been no shortage of suitors for the Tote, but the government have remained firm on their pledge to sell Tote to the industry. Gala Coral, who are now favourites to buy the pool betting monopoly and a chain of 540 high street betting shops, have frequently reiterated their desire to buy the Tote for £405 million.

Bids from Britain’s two biggest bookies, Ladbrokes and William Hill, are likely to be non-starters as a purchase would break competition laws.

The auction process is expected to begin in January and last around 9 months. However, government minsters may delay the auction a little more to wait for better market conditions.

Why not? It has only taken 6 years to get this far...

Editor, - 2007-12-17 11:37:51

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