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Racing: Punters escape betting ring blues with the redcoats

Grumpy track bookmakers are driving racegoers into the arms of cheerful, red-jacketed staff at the Tote's betting booths, Peter Jones, the chairman of the Tote, said last night.

Jones told the Gimcrack Dinner that racecourse attendances were set for a five per cent increase in 1997 compared to last year and that the Tote's racecourse turnover was due to show a 10 per cent rise over the same period. Jones claims this reflected larger crowds and an increase in market share.

``This performance is due, to a large extent, to the excellent service offered by the Tote on course. Independent research shows that Tote customers get a smile and a thank-you from the ladies in red on the vast majority of occasions when they place a bet. This cannot be said of the ring bookmakers and yet there is talk of giving bookmakers more pitches in different parts of the racecourse.''

The chairman described as "rum'' that there were moves afoot to reward inferior service from bookies and ``potentially damage those who offer the best''. He added: ``I am sure the three wise men of the Levy Board will not succumb to the temptation to buy peace in the ring at the cost of racegoers."