The privatisation of the Tote moved a step closer with the government choosing UK-based bookmaker Betfred to buy the pool betting system.

It’s disappointing news for the racing industry, which was understood to prefer a rival bid led by British Airways chairman Martin Broughton.

The Tote was set up 83 years ago and, in addition to its role as a bookmaker, it also contributes directly to racecourses and to racing.

Betfred paid £265million for the Tote, with the industry getting £90million from the sale, a guarantee of another £11million to March 2012 and then £9million a year for the next six years of the deal.

All Tote shops on the high street will be rebranded, but the Tote name will remain in use on the UK’s 60 racecourses. As a result of the takeover, there are expected to be some job losses, largely in the north-west of the country.

The deal will be formalised in four to eight weeks’ time following a consultation with Tote employees.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (9 June, 2011)