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On Course Dive For UK Tote Betting

Winston Churchill would be amazed

The Tote, a name familiar to generations of racegoers over the past 90 years, will be replaced by Britbet from mid-July on the vast majority of British tracks when a group of racecourses including Cheltenham, Aintree, York and Goodwood takes control of on-course pool betting.

It is reported by www.theguardian.com that Sir Winston Churchill, a keen owner and racegoer, was instrumental in setting up the Tote in 1928 and it was government-owned before its sale to the Betfred bookmaking chain in July 2011. The deal with Betfred included a seven-year monopoly on British pool betting that expires on 12 July and 54 of Britain’s racecourses will launch their own pools under the Britbet brand the following day.

The decision by the tracks to set up a rival operation to the Tote will change the landscape on all but a handful of courses. In addition to the rebranding of pool betting, at least 49 of Betfred’s 51 on-course betting shops are scheduled to close, while the firm has also announced an end to major race sponsorships inherited from the Tote, including the Ebor Handicap at York and the “Autumn Double” of the Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch at Newmarket.

Royal Ascot

Ascot and Chester are the only significant absentees from the project and the tracks involved hope their in-house betting project will allow them to take control of a valuable revenue stream.

“Our aim is to make Britbet synonymous with British racing and our racecourse partners while delivering a first-class experience for customers on and off the racecourses,” David Williams, Britbet’s director of communications, said. “It will be a genuine ‘by racing, for racing’ operation, which is something we believe customers will embrace.”

Pool betting has always struggled to gain a foothold in Britain’s competitive gambling market, as many punters prefer to bet at a fixed price with a bookmaker. The emergence of betting exchanges 15 years ago has further reduced the appeal of pool betting, where a slice is taken off the total amount bet on an event and a dividend is then declared to a £1 unit, dividing what remains between all winning tickets.

Britbet customers will be able to bet into pools both at racecourses and online but other key details of its offering – such as the introduction of a “small stake, big win” bet to rival the Tote’s Scoop6 – remain hazy at present.

The all-important level of deductions from pools has also yet to be decided, though punters will hope for a cut from the current rake-off from win pools, which was raised from 16.5% to 19.25% last year.

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11 comments on “On Course Dive For UK Tote Betting

  1. Ian Jayes says:

    That’s very good news. They must take over the off-course totes and also levy bookmakers for betting on their racing.

  2. mully1 says:

    Really hope it is a success.

  3. Leon Smuts says:

    Pool betting is such an underrated part of the product mix and given the right format will far outperform any fixed odds betting both from a revenue and especially a customer growth perspective. The fact that pool betting has not lived up to expectations is mainly because of unfavorable methodologies being used that does not promote player confidence or entertainment. The scope is huge but until the need is fully understood will continue to be a marketing enigma.
    Hope that this change will lead to the introduction of more creative offerings and a comeback for racing.

  4. Roderick Mattheyse says:

    Leon, the only thing that hampers pool betting is the take-out. there is zero scope until the takeout is adressed, the operators cant seem to address this as the cost of the product is too high.

    address the wastage as in dividends, barrier trials and corporate costs , put that into takeout reductions in terms of rebates to legitimate tote players and you will see things grow, no 4.20 payout because i got got 7 out of 10 can have the same effect as getting the takeout correct.

  5. Leon Smuts says:

    Rod, I respect your comments as you talk a lot of sense but believe me that on pool betting and what can be done with it, you have no idea of what has and can still be created. We are not even scraping the barrel on the possibilities that can be explored and offered. The problem for operators are that most current bets will be redundant when these types new of products are introduced. The inevitable short term impact is weighing too heavily on the considerable longer term gains for turnover junkies to even give it a chance. And no silver and copper for the winners either, frequent massive payouts but with winning not just a possibility, but guaranteed daily. Your mind will boggle when the time comes. As to your point on the current take out it is a definite put off and the only way that this can be addressed is through much bigger and constantly growing pools. Terrible take out percentages is indicative of pools not growing and funding pressures getting the better of common sense as far as looking after the customer is concerned.

    1. Roderick Mattheyse says:

      Leon, except for the carryovers, (been a few of those lately) , all pool bets are won daily, every day.

      So nothing unique here.

      1. Leon Smuts says:

        I appreciate the point you make Rod but I have played all of them so I believe I have a fair comparative benchmark. The interesting thing is that I now play very few of them because they don’t offer the player real value (cost versus risk versus return) and very little entertainment value which I deem important for an afternoons involvement. The new products that I am involved in will produce the biggest guaranteed winners that racing has ever had without affecting daily winning. We should have a private chat sometime and exchange some ideas.

  6. Paulo says:

    Boys…play the Time Bomb..Now there is an exotic to befuddle even the most seasoned punters. A good friend often tells me that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king…I think eyes are a little hazy in this industry of ours. Of even greater relevance is that Pool betting has been seen by the operators as the Holy Grail of their betting operations – high take outs, despite turnovers (When they were high the take out was similar), bad management of carry-overs and general bad marketing – there is no reason a P6 cannot be a lottery (horses replacing balls). @Leon..I happen to know Rod quite well and I assure he has not only played them ALL..but possibly more than you. The key thing is that all the ideas in the world will stand no ground until they are reduced to detail and specifics – concepts are just pie in the sky…we can always have a private chat, and I can tell you the story of Van Der Merwe and his donkey, whom he could make laugh or cry by whispering in his ear.;-)

  7. Leon Smuts says:

    Paulo, you and Rod are good racing people with your hearts in the right place and i will gladly share details with you if we ever get together. Details and ideas in a public forum will never happen again where I am involved and discussions with operators will only ever happen with a signed mutual NDA in place. Once bitten and all that because the one thing I have learnt is that anyone not willing to discuss things under agreement has no good intentions and is not worth wasting your time over. Can and perhaps will still write a book about all the characters in the wagering industry and there are only a few that I respect and would trust in an open discussion. So I apologise for the lack of details but until submitted patents for certain game elements are approved, it’s the way it has to be.

  8. Ian Jayes says:

    Talking about writing a book, I have written a book “Footsteps, Heartbeats and Hoofbeats” which mainly deals with my involvement in horseracing as a owner-trainer, steward etc. It is published by Amazon. On the matter of totes, when I was a steward at Newmarket and the Vaal, we proposed a 15% take-out: 5% for the Club, 5% into stakes and 5% tax. Phumelela has a 25% take-out and pays only 4% tax.

    On the totes versus bookmakers issue, at Newmarket we took the bookmakers sheets after every race and treated every Rand bet as a win bet on the tote. We added this to the tote win pool, deducted tax and calculated a dividend. The results were very illuminating: horses that were laid at 7-2 would have paid over R8-00 on the tote, outsiders would have paid huge amounts. We did this over 16 racemeetings and the results were always the same. If the off-course bookmakers betting was included the dividends would have been even greater.

    Not only would the Clubs have received more than double the commission they were receiving but Province would have received nearly three times as much tax.

    We thought this was staggering and the Newmarket stewards gave this information to the Witwatersrand Association Racing Clubs (WARC) to further it. Unfortunately for reasons best known to them, nothing came of it. The bookmaking lobby was probably too powerful.

  9. Leon Smuts says:

    Mr Jayes, I love reading your comments as they are always highly informative and knowledgeable. There are so many things that can be done to improve the perception of racing and the offering to the public. Until the connection between wagering and attendance are better understood and more closely aligned through products (both wagering and non-wagering that also offer real entertainment) the sport will not become an object of mass attraction. Our sport could be made a household name across the demographic spectrum with the right approach but the current model does not promote expansion at grass roots level. Everything is skewed towards immediate turnover gains with little thought given to building future capacity and sustainable growth. Under the current model local racing will never be able to thrive as it requires a real love for racing and a passion to see it flourishing. When the drivers of long term growth is constantly ignored in favor of short term performance it leaves little to enthuse about as viewed from an industry wide perspective. We need all parties to work together and a proper budget and strategy to unlock the potential of local racing again. I know many competent and passionate people that would add real value to a local project but it would need funding and support from the operator to succeed. We live in hope.

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