In a week dominated by the news that the UK government is planning a wide ranging review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the UK Tote Group has made the bold move to stick their metaphorical head above the parapet.
They have revealed their ambitious plan to diversify into football, bringing their market leading pool betting platform – which has been a cornerstone of horse racing punting for decades – to the beautiful game.
The Group have been seeking £20 million in equity to power the launch, which is expected at some point in 2021, and now that the finance is in place they can begin to plot how they will look to shake up a market that has remained loyal to traditional fixed odds betting.
In contrast to some of their industry rivals, the Tote is said to have performed admirably in the second half of 2020 despite the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. A relaunch, coupled with a new website and more interest from overseas, has led the Tote to a solid showing this year.
Whether the UK Tote Group will offer pool betting or a more traditional sports betting product remains to be seen, but their spokeswoman said: “As the UK Tote Group, we have made a long-term commitment to rejuvenating the Tote and increasing pool betting on British racing.
“Our ability to respond to new opportunities, beyond our initial acquisition of the business, remains a key priority and are grateful to our enormously supportive shareholders who share our ambitions for the Tote.
“We have completed a capital raise to allow for investment into the core platform on which we offer our digital racing pools product, as well as being able to expand into other sports.”
All very generic and cryptic, but it will certainly be interesting to see how this bastion of the betting industry seeks to diversify and disrupt in 2021.
The Tote Still Going Strong
In 2028, the Tote will celebrate a century in operation.
There are many who didn’t think it would ever see the day, but the new owners – the Alizeti Capital firm – seem to have their house in order and have taken the brand forward since getting their hands on it in 2019.
They had acquired the rights to the Tote name from Betfred, who themselves had splashed out a cool £265 million in 2011 to get their hands on exclusive rights to the pool betting platform.
There have been rocky times sporadically since Winston Churchill instigated the foundation of the Tote all those years ago, but under their ‘Together for the Tote’ branding the Alizeti group has found a groundswell of support from those within racing – which benefits from the Levy fund contributions – and also punters seeking a different way to get their bets on.
At times, liquidity remains a problem, but the Tote’s guarantee that no punter will walk away with anything less than the SP on their selections has helped to improve the reputation and integrity of the brand considerably.
Word is spreading too, and you only need to see the huge prizes available on the World Pool days – specifically British Champions Day at Royal Ascot – to see that there is still an incredible demand for pool betting.
But can it work in football and other sports? That is the challenge currently facing the UK Tote Group, and it seems to be one they are willing to tackle head on.
A Double Positive
The success of the Tote since the summer is helping to pour some much-needed finance back into racing.
With punters only just starting to trickle back onto racecourses in very limited number, the future appears pretty stark for the sport – here’s hoping larger capacities can return in 2021.
Betting revenue is key to keeping racing afloat, and after committing to a series of innovations – including a Tote guarantee that winning bets on UK and Irish racing will never pay out less than the industry Starting Price – the brand is starting to play a considerable part in helping the sport through these toughest of times.
Some big names have dropped out of the betting circle too, including those operated by GVC Holdings, and so it’s crucial that largely online ventures like the Tote continue to shoulder much of the burden.
With the Jockey Club forecasting a loss of £90 million in 2020, the shortfall will only be partially covered by the Horserace Betting Levy Board’s commitment to pouring an extra £32 million into racing.
It’s crucial then that platforms like the Tote continue to be supported, for the good of horse racing now and into the future.