The Tote is probably one of the most iconic betting brands in the industry. The company were set up by the government in 1928 to offer a safe and controlled form of betting that was designed to move punters away from then illegal betting circuits.
They’ve had a solid presence on the high street and at one point were able to offer up over 500 betting shops. Since their merger with Betfred, these shops have primarily been renamed under the Betfred brand, but some still are on offer within horse racing tracks.
High Street Betting Shops
The brand started life in 1928 working with horse racing tracks and run by the government. But, it wasn’t until 1972 where they were actually able to open their first store, some 11 years after the initial betting shop ban was lifted in 1961. The Tote actually remained banned from opening high street stores within this period.
The company were able to offer up over 500 stores in their prime, but probably more successful was the ability to get into over 4,500 betting shops with their unique pool betting format. This allowed them huge coverage and it was though that in the mid seventies, there was no single brand able to get as much exposure as the Tote.
The reason behind this is that the Tote wasn’t actually a direct threat to the bookies. They offered pool betting, as we’ve just mentioned, and there were no other companies able to offer this service or rival the bets that could be made. It also helped considerably that they were government run, which definitely allowed the bigger brands an easier ride with any ‘issues’ they may be having.
The buyout from Betfred in 2011 changed the way in which the group operated and all but removed them from the high street, with Betfred opting to change these shops with their existing brand. The company still have kiosks within a number of horse racing circuits throughout the UK and Ireland though, which is their only remaining brick and mortar entities these days.
On the Internet
The company first launched their online offering in 2002, a couple years after the major brands were starting to get involved. The site and the markets on offer has changed considerably in that time, mainly moving away from the original pool bets and more towards a traditional bookmaking style. But, they are still the main place when it comes to the pool bets, offering up a huge range as well.
The website doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in our opinion. It looks really good and we loved the fact that they have kept their original corporate colours of green, black and orange, making them standout from what can be a very boring industry at times.
It’s fair to say that horse racing plays a huge roll on site and with it you are able to access a ton of features including form, statistics, race cards, live streaming, live commentary and markets from races all over the world.
They’ve also fairly recently gone mobile, which allows you to access the site whilst on the go. The betting app isn’t quite as polished as the online site for us, but offers a good enough alternative.
The Tote was first formed in 1928 by the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, no less. At this time betting was rife, but it was also illegal for the most part, especially when carried out away from racecourses. The government knew that they were unable to stop these activities from happening, so decided that a better action would be offer a controlled method for all punters to enjoy.
The pool form of betting was one that was already fairly popular amongst local track bookies and so, with the formation of the Racehorse Betting Control Board via the Racehorse Betting Act of 1928, the Tote was born.
The tote was unique in that it was designed to pump money back into the sport, as it still is to this very day. They were first able to set up shop at meetings in Newmarket and Carlisle, both with huge amounts of success.
The name ‘ The Tote’ wasn’t actually assigned to the company until 1962, when then Tote investors Ltd (TIL) company, set up in 1930 to oversee the welfare of racing, was bought by the Tote.
Over the next few decades the company ran pretty smoothly within racecourses up and down the UK. The life on the ban of high street betting shops in 1961 changed the outlook of the betting industry. But, the Tote weren’t actually able to open a betting shop until 1972 due to restrictions that were put in place by the government regarding expansion into this sector.
Thought the 80’s and 90’s the company started to gain huge traction. They were able to get space in over 7,000 betting shops to promote their produce and employed over 4,000 staff at one point. These bets would all channel down into their own betting shops and paid out as if it were a side venture for the brands who’s space they were occupying. Looking back, it was a genius stroke of marketing by the powers that be, allowing them to have maximum exposure for little to no additional cost!
By 1999 the tote were starting to tie in some lucrative deals, none more so than their partnership with Channel 4 racing. This showed their brand on all races on the TV channel and even offered odds provided straight from the Tote, including pool payouts and percentages. Betting markets such as the Scoop6 were born and even managed to create the first betting millionaire!
But, even with all this success, the government were often keen to try and strike a deal to privatise the company. Being linked with gambling was something that they weren’t all that keen on and as they were getting more than enough money from taxing other companies, the need to keep the Tote on their books was becoming less of a priority.
The first call to go private actually came about in 1989 when a proposed bid from Lloyds Bank was actually accepted. But, after huge uproar from the powers that be within horse racing, the bid eventually failed.
Several more attempts were made to both sell and purchase the company in the coming years from within both Labour and Conservative governments. The majority of bids failed however, mainly due to the fact that they were backed by private equity forms and the governments cause for concern with what would eventually be put back in the sport was highlighted even further.
It wasn’t until 2011 when the ball really started to get rolling with privatisation. The government invited 18 parties to bid on the potential purchase of the Tote, with each having to adhere to strict guidelines set out. The process went through several stages and candidates were removed accordingly before getting down to the final 5, believed to be Betfred, David and Simon Reuben, Gala Coral Group, Sports Investment Partners and a foundation set up by existing Tote management.
The winning bid eventually came from that of Betfred, who already had strong ties to the horse racing industry sponsoring several races and meeting throughout the UK and Ireland. The deal was a reported £265million, with chunks of it being distributed between the taxpayers and several horse racing authorities. As part of the deal, Betfred also took ownership of the 517 betting shops that were owned by the Tote, along with full control of their online dealings.
Key terms included:
- A long term working partnership with the worlds leading Racing industry
- Racing to receive more than £155million over 7 years
- £9million per year put towards Racing
- £90million flat sum paid to Racing
- To keep the Tote brand across UK race courses
- Betfred will become the country’s biggest sponsor for horse racing
- More money will go into racing charities throughout the UK and Ireland
Totesport in the News
Totesport sell-off looks a strong bet (25th November 2003) – The movement towards the sale of the Tote after the 2001 General Election starts to take shape. For the first time since they opened their doors in 1928 under the ruling of then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the company will be looking to go private with a sale looking to be imminent.
Betfred wins auction for Tote with £265million deal (3rd June 2011) – After over a decade, the sale of the Tote has been finalised, with Betfred coming out on top in a deal worth £265million. The bidding process included several betting institutions, but the powers that be within the Tote decided that it was Betfred who were able to take the brand forward and also provide much needed funds back into the horse racing industry as a result.
Horse racing industry plans to set up betting pool to rival Tote (2nd April 2016) – Key players within the horse racing industry such as The Jockey Club and Racehorse Media Group are planning on setting up a rival pool betting company to take on the Tote. The deal is said to be targeting when the license for the Tote expires and attempts to try and generate more money going back into the racing industry since the sale of the Tote to Betfred in 2011.