|According to the Reuters news agency, the UK Government has put the State-owned Tote bookmaker up for sale after belatedly rejecting a bid from a racing industry consortium.|
The Tote was established in 1928 to operate Britain's pool betting system and has around 540 betting shops along with representatives at all 59 UK racecourses together with an online betting division. The Government said it would appoint advisers to look at the options but intends to prepare for an open market sale and would begin taking indicative offers immediately.
'It's been so long, it's not a surprise,” said Trevor Beaumont, Chief Executive for the Tote.
“It has to be the longest time taken to say ‘no’ in history. We just welcome the clarity. We are in the horse racing business and if you look at the form then I wouldn't take any notice of what the Government say. I'm not hung up if it takes three weeks, three months or three years, we'll just get on with running the business'.
The announcement is the latest in a near three-year saga over the Tote and the decision to sell it on the open market will anger the racing industry with the Government likely to face a backlash for going back on past promises. Tony Blair’s Government pledged to sell the Tote to the racing industry in 2001 but deals in 2005, 2006 and two last year were cancelled for various reasons.
Gambling firms, private equity firms and multi-millionaire racing tycoons are all expected to be in the running to buy all or parts of the Tote although competition laws could effectively rule out Britain's two biggest bookmakers, William Hill and Ladbrokes. Gala Coral had previously offered to buy the business while BetFred and Paddy Power are also expected to be interested.