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New era for the Tote as racing consortium completes takeover from Betfred

The Tote is set to enter a new era according to its new owners who are looking at international opportunities to kick-start the venerable institution's resurgence.

The consortium of racing-backed investors behind the Together For The Tote project completed its acquisition of the Tote from Betfred on Thursday.

The UK Tote Group, formerly known as Alizeti, said it would be sharing its plans for developing the Tote over the coming weeks, including the launch of new branding, a new website and the return of Tote Ten to Follow.

Representatives of the group said the cost of the purchase was "north" of £100 million.

However, having bought a 25 per cent stake in the Tote for £20m in May 2018, the UK Tote Group is set to pay a further £95m in instalments to complete the purchase − valuing the Tote at £115m – if the details set out in an investment proposal circulated during the summer still stand.

Chief executive Alex Frost said on Thursday: "Today marks the start of an exciting new era for the Tote.

"Pool betting plays a leading role in racing jurisdictions around the world and we believe the Tote can play a similar role in the UK, while supporting and growing British racing in the years ahead."

The Tote's new owners held a reception in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday evening before the deal was finally concluded.

Frost, speaking to an audience of politicians and racing figures, said the World Pool which ran at Royal Ascot this summer was an example of the potential of international collaboration.

Money invested into all the pools run at the royal meeting totalled £92m compared with £17m last year, an increase of 440 per cent, fuelled largely by the involvement of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Frost told the reception: "Internationally there are huge opportunities for growth. This was exemplified under the stewardship of Ascot with the launch of World Pool."

He went on: "The pioneering brilliance of the Ascot team has laid the basis for concepts such as Saturday World Pools and other international collaborative efforts in the years ahead.

"International collaboration is right at the top of our agenda. Growing the British pool grows the potential contributions we can make to British racing."

The Tote, which was founded in 1928 by Sir Winston Churchill, was bought from the government by Betfred in 2011 and Frost thanked the bookmaker's founder Fred Done for his help.

Done said: "Through our ownership of the Tote we have made a significant contribution to racing over the last eight years. We wish Alex Frost and his team all the best and they have been very fair to deal with." 

In October last year Alizeti, the Tote and rival racecourse pool betting operation Britbet agreed to work together in a deal in which Britbet's partner racecourses are set to receive at least £50m over seven years.

Frost said on Thursday: "Our partnership with Britbet and its member racecourses is now well established, and we look forward to working even more closely with Neil Goulden, Nigel Roddis and the Britbet team to deliver an innovative and enhanced pool betting experience across the Britbet racecourses."

Frost said the group was also looking forward to operating the Bet With Ascot pool betting operation for Ascot racecourse.

He went on: "The racing world has huge respect for British racing and we are very optimistic about its future. As the new stewards of this iconic British institution, we are focused on remaining true to the founding principles of the Tote, while modernising the business to secure its future relevance." 

The UK Tote Group said it is backed by more than 160 individual investors, the "majority" of whom are racehorse owners and breeders. 

The Tote has its headquarters in Wigan and the town's Labour MP Lisa Nandy spoke at the reception of the importance of the Tote to the area.

"I can tell you that since the Tote moved to Wigan it has been an enormous source of pride for everybody in our town, for all of the reasons you have just heard about. The very, very special role that the Tote plays in horseracing as a whole, in responsible gambling and as an iconic institution.

"It really, really matters to our town that they chose us, and that they continue to choose us and that they continue to invest in us."

Tote deal: your questions answered

What will it mean for punters?

In the short term there will be the return of an old favourite, the Tote Ten To Follow, as well as the launch of a new website. Takeout rates may be reduced to increase value while longer term they are looking to boost pool sizes and there has been mention of regular Saturday World Pools following the success of the initial trial during Royal Ascot. Punters are not restricted or closed down on the Tote, but currently small pool sizes mean a large bet would reduce returns compared to fixed-odds bets at all but the biggest meetings.

The Tote has new owners – who are they?

Formerly known as Alizeti, the UK Tote Group is a consortium of racing figures set up to buy the Tote from Betfred. They say they have more than 160 individual investors, the "majority" of which are racehorse owners and breeders. Among them are the China Horse Club, owners such as Johnny de la Hey, the Queen's racing manager John Warren and the Racehorse Owners Association.

How much has it cost them?

The UK Tote Group says the total bill will be "north" of £100 million. An investment proposal circulated during the summer suggested the total bill would be £115m. Fred Done paid a net £180m for the Tote in 2011, but that included the Tote's betting shop estate.

What will it mean for racing?

In addition to paying the levy, the UK Tote Group has an agreement with Britbet under which the Tote has promised to contribute a minimum of £50m to the sport over the next seven years.

Who are Britbet and how do they fit in?

Britbet was set up originally as a rival pool betting operation to the Tote by 55 of Britain's racecourses. However, an agreement was reached last year for it to work together with Alizeti and the Tote rather than have two competing operations diluting liquidity. Britbet operates pool betting across those 55 racecourses alongside a number of racecourse betting shops with the UK Tote Group in charge of off course and online.

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