Racing: Seven years for Tote to gain lengths on pool rivals

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The Independent Online

The Government yesterday gave the Tote seven more years with a monopoly on pool betting on British racing before Ladbrokes, the other major bookmakers and anyone else who fancies their chances can enter the fray.

Richard Caborn, the Sports Minister, outlined the details of the licence offered to the Racing Trust, who will buy the Tote from the Government. The seven-year period will not be extended and at its conclusion, there will be a new regulatory regime that will allow other operators to provide pool betting, he said. "Selling the Tote to the Racing Trust is the right way to fulfil the Government's commitment to sell the Tote," Caborn commented.

"We firmly believe it is in the public interest to open up the pool-betting market to effective competition. But we also believe a reasonable period of preparation is necessary in order to safeguard the revenue racing receives from the Tote and its successor.

"That's why we are granting the Trust a seven-year exclusive licence so it can establish itself in the market. It strikes the right balance between these two priorities and I'm convinced it's the best way forward for racing, the betting industry and punters alike."

In a Parliamentary statement, Caborn added: "We plan to bring forward the necessary legislative proposals shortly."

The Shadow Racing Trust, put in place until the final sale is completed, responded favourably to the Government's announcement. Lord Lipsey, the chairman, said: "We welcome the Government's confirmation of the early introduction of legislation and acknowledge the strenuous efforts which Tessa Jowell and her colleagues have made to secure for the Tote an exclusive licence period of seven years.

"Anything less than this would have threatened the Tote's very existence. We now have a basis on which to plan and to consult further with the shareholders."

The Trust, designed to represent all sectors of the sport, is to be made up of an independent chairman and one representative from each of the British Horseracing Board, Industry Committee, Jockey Club, Racecourse Association, Racehorse Owners Association, Tote staff and punters.

It was on Tuesday that Lord McIntosh, the Minister for Media and Heritage, revealed the details of the Horseracing Betting and Olympic Lottery Bill, under which the Tote's governance would be passed to a racing trust.

"Government has no place in the day-to-day operation of racing," he told the annual Industry Seminar of bookmakers. "There is no other sport, including greyhound racing, where we are so closely involved with the administration and finances. Quite simply, it is no longer appropriate, nor acceptable, for the Tote to remain in public ownership.

"Once the transitional licence period has come to an end the pool-betting market will be open to new entrants and there is no plan to limit the number of licences available.

"We think that this is the best way to establish a healthy pool-betting market for the long-term benefit of racing and the betting customer."

Ladbrokes have already announced their intention to enter the pool-betting market once the Tote's exclusivity period has finished. And other potential players in the market now know how long they have to set up the infrastructure to take up the challenge of offering pool betting to their customers.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Longshanks

(Ayr 2.00)

NB: Cita Verda

(Ayr 2.30)

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