It is unusual for both Leader columns to tackle the same subject in an issue of Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder. However, the running of the Tote is of such importance to the future prosperity of British horseracing plc that I make no apology for following my counterpart at the ROA in writing about this vital opportunity.
As mentioned on the previous page, the Tote’s seven-year exclusive licence runs out in 2018, after which any company can apply for a pool betting licence in the UK. It’s hard to believe that almost five years have passed since the government sold the Tote to Betfred, with all the furore and upset that the decision caused. There had been many false starts, and there were times before the latest recession when ‘racing’ and others bid amounts that would have resulted in major difficulties today.
Becoming part of a betting firm has removed the Tote’s independence and lessened its visibility
In the past, the Tote was seen as a vital asset to racing, one that the sport should make every effort to take over and control. What, if anything, has changed?
Becoming part of a major betting firm has removed the Tote’s independence and a general rebranding has lessened its visibility as one of the major presences on and off the racecourse. Yet pool betting still has a significant role to play. It is the dominant, and sometimes only betting system in most of the rest of the world, and its facility for exotic bets and co-mingling provides very exciting opportunities. A thriving Tote would offer great benefits for British racing, and the opportunity should be grasped with both hands.
Racecourses must get behind a project that revitalises the on-track Tote and generates more money that can be reinvested in areas such as prize-money. A successful outcome also requires a modern software system that encourages exotic bets and co-mingling of pools with other jurisdictions, using every available platform for promotion and providing far greater liquidity than is currently available.
The prime essential, though, is to agree on a single Tote system. Fragmenting the pools, leading to unfavourable liquidity and an uncompetitive offering, would be a disaster. If a central pool and sensible take-outs are structured carefully, many existing betting promoters will benefit from running an independent pool system alongside their other offerings and a wide audience could be reached very easily.
Two years is not long to get a new system up and running and there is much to do. Through the Horsemen’s Group and the racecourses, racing needs to agree a way forward as soon as possible. As with media rights, horsemen do not need to be involved in the minute detail of pool betting, but we do need to encourage the best possible outcome, so that everyone in racing can thrive.
We must be certain that in supporting such initiatives we secure a fair and substantial prize-money agreement, in order to participate in the upside, and that is something the Horsemen’s Group board should engage in from the outset. The Tote has been good for British racing in the past and a well-run pool system should benefit everyone in the future. As breeders and horsemen we should lend our support to achieve this objective.
Closer to home I would remind all breeders, and particularly TBA members, about two important dates – June 23, when we hold our annual seminar at Tattersalls in Newmarket, and June 30, the deadline for completing Plus 10 yearling registrations for foals of 2015.
TBA members are entitled to one free place per membership at the seminar, where the morning session will feature presentations on equine genetics. This subject – looked at in this magazine on pages 49-53 – has been given extra focus by the debate surrounding 2,000 Guineas victor, Galileo Gold.
As for Plus 10, it has gained real traction and I urge everyone in the UK and Ireland to make best use of the scheme. The new rules that allow both foal and yearling registrars to benefit from any Plus 10 winner whom they register should be a big incentive.