PRESS RELEASE FROM THE CAMPAIGN FOR PUBLIC OWNERSHIP ON THE SALE OF THE TOTE
Today is a very sad day for British horse-racing.
Announcing the sale of the Tote, Britain’s publicly-owned bookmaker to the private bookmaking chain Betfred, gambling and racing minister John Penrose said ‘Most people can’t understand why in the modern world, the government should be even part owner of a bookie.‘ But the Tote is no ordinary bookmaker. Since its foundation in 1928 by Sir Winston Churchill, it has helped British racing develop into the wonderful sport it is today. Last year the Tote gave £19m to racing and sponsored over 700 races. The Tote’s profits are ploughed back into the sport and it largely because of the Tote and the generous support it gives racing, that we have such diverse racing in Britain, with no fewer than 60 racetracks.
The Tote is no failing business, but a much-loved institution that has carried out its duties in support of racing perfectly well for the best part of a century. For a comparatively small sum- £90m, the government is selling-off another national asset.
There is no logical reason to sell the Tote, no one in racing was calling for its privatisation. The long-term effects for racing, a sport which employs over 100,000 people directly and indirectly and which brings pleasure to the lives of millions of people are likely to be disastrous, with Tote betting shops likely to be closed and small tracks threatened by the likely ending of the Tote’s subsidy.