Gala Coral and Betfred clear Tote's first fence

Six parties have made it through to second-round bids for the Tote, the state-owned bookmaker which has been put up for sale.

Those proceeding are thought to include: the bookies Gala Coral and Betfred; Reuben Brothers, the racecourse owners and property tycoons; and a consortium led by Sir Martin Broughton, the deputy chairman of British Airways' new parent company.

John Penrose, the minister for Tourism and Heritage, said the Government had received 18 indicative offers and would provide a further update in the spring. It wants to complete a sale by May and vows to share half of the net cash proceeds with the racing sector.