The future of the Tote brand and its marketing department could be in peril if it is sold to a rival such as Gala Coral, a leading betting analyst claims.
The Government last week turned down a bid believed to be in the region of 320m for the Tote from a racing consortium, and Warwick Bartlett – a partner at Global Betting and Gaming Consultants – claims Gala Coral has already made its move.
He says: "We know Gala Coral is interested and my information is that it has already put a bid in that made the racing industry’s bid look rather small. If Gala Coral is successful, it would rebrand all Tote’s betting shops."
The consortium, consisting of the UK’s largest racecourse operator Arena Leisure, the Racecourse Holdings Trust and the Racecourse Association, is unlikely to be able to raise more money despite its bid being way short of the 400m valuation put on the business by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers.
It is possible that the Tote’s pool betting licence will be sold separately to its 540 betting shops. Gala Coral, the country’s third biggest bookmaker, is particularly interested in the betting shops estate.
If its bid succeeds, it would rival its two larger competitors with about 1,900 betting shops in the UK. William Hill currently has 2,100 and Ladbrokes owns 1,900.
The Tote’s 20-strong marketing department is headed by marketing director Keith Oliver.