Pool betting: a good deal for racing, now a good deal has to be done
It got perilously close to the witching hour, but on 30 October agreement was reached between Britbet and the owners of the Tote to pool their resources. Pool being the operative word.
If a deal hadn’t been done, we could have ended up with two rival pools, one operated by Britbet on behalf of 55 racecourses and the other, the existing Tote, carrying on as before. With diluted liquidity, that would have been disastrous.
But we do have the common-sense outcome – cooperation.
And the commercial approach is sensible too. The Tote brand, familiar such as it is, will continue to be used, whilst Britbet will run the racecourse side, leaving the Tote’s owners to be responsible for marketing, the online presence, and offering pool betting through betting shops.
And it’s the Tote’s owners who will feel the pressure.
Arriving on the scene earlier this year was a financial consortium called Alizeti who purchased 25% of the Tote from Fred Done’s Betfred, with a view to increasing its share over the years to become the outright owners.
Fred Done wanted the Tote’s portfolio of shops and the fact that they operated pool betting as a monopoly looked very much like it was being treated as a cash-cow.
It has been Alizeti’s stated aim to grow pool betting, not least by reducing deductions, which helped facilitate the deal with Britbet who stand to receive £50m for their racecourse shareholders, who include ARC, Jockey Club Racecourses and independent tracks such as Goodwood, Newbury and York. The noticeable absentee being Ascot, more of whom later.
Pool betting is in decline as the French are experiencing with lower PMU revenue.
In this country the rate has been faster, partly because sports book betting is much more popular, but also because, under Betfred’s stewardship, the Tote has become moribund. Deductions have been increased and it’s been a long time since a blockbuster pool with a mammoth pay=out has made the headlines.
If’s unlikely that the fall in pool betting can be reversed, but it could slow down and, to this end, there are two pressing issues to address. First, reducing the takeout so that regular punters have confidence in the value of pool betting. Second, work needs to be done to promote the Scoop 6 and get it back to being a bet where the potential pay-out catches the imagination of casual players.
And it wouldn’t go amiss if other exotic bets were introduced which, even in its heyday, the Tote didn’t seem to hve the creative capaboilitie to develop .
It wont be easy but at least we have a deal in place where such aspirations are possible.
That leaves Ascot. They have gone their own way with Bet With Ascot. Yes, it feeds its bets into the Tote’s pool but it is time it dropped its in-house branding and did racing a big favour by using the Tote name so that the familiarity it creates with pool betting is consistent with virtually every other course.
Ascot can be a maverick if it likes with its media deals, albeit they cause friction here as well, but for the good of racing as a whole, little is achieved outside Ascot’s own parish with its inward-looking approach to pool betting.