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The BBC's John Moylan
"The betting industry has concerns"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 16:05 GMT
Racing industry to buy Tote
Horse racing
Horse racing should benefit from the sale of Tote
The Tote, the state-run bookmaker, is to be sold to the horse racing industry, Home Secretary Jack Straw has announced.

The Levy Board, set up 30 years ago to collect a charge on horserace bets from bookmakers to help fund the horse racing industry, will be abolished.

The decision to privatise the Tote was taken in May last year.

The Tote
The Tote was set up by Winston Churchill in 1928
Various options, including flotation on the stock market and an open competitive auction, were considered.

But Mr Straw said in a Commons written reply that the final decision was helped by the agreement of all relevant horseracing interests to support a single proposal to buy the Tote on behalf of racing.

'Best match'

"I have concluded that a sale to racing represents the best match with the government's objectives for the sale as a whole," Mr Straw said.

"The sale of the Tote and the abolition of the Levy should enable racing to take more control of its own affairs and finances, as befits a mature sport.

"The arrangements under which racing receives income from bookmaking should become a matter for settlement between the parties on a commercial basis," he said.

The Tote operates alongside on-course bookmakers
The Tote, or the Horserace Totalisator Board, was set up by Winston Churchill in 1928 to ensure that money from betting was put back into racing.

It also provided an alternative to illegal off-course betting.

It operates by pooling money from punters' bets, and after winnings are paid, any profits are put back into the racing industry.

The Tote has around 280 high-street betting shops and also operates on-course outlets.

It makes about 12m a year, and about 10m of this is ploughed back into racing.

Mr Straw said the price for the Tote sale would be subject to commercial negotiation but would strike a balance between the interests of the industry and the taxpayer.

200m value

A consortium made up of the British Horseracing Board (BHB) and nominated representatives from the racing world will now produce legislation to pave the way for the radical shake-up.

Home Office minister Mike O'Brien said he hoped the BHB would produce its plans by the end of the year.

But he refused to speculate on how much the Tote would sell for. Its current estimated market value is 200 million.

"We will work closely with racing, bookmakers and others to ensure that these important industries prosper in the future," Mr O'Brien said.
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See also:

13 Jul 99 |  The Economy
Decision due on Tote sell-off
12 May 99 |  UK Politics
The Tote: State-run betting
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