The Tote: flickering back into life
On the face of it, the Tote is flickering back into life.
It has a new look, which is being rolled out across Britain’s racecourses. It has reintroduced the Tote 10 to Follow competition for the 2019-20 jumps season, with over 58,000 stables, at £5 each, entered. A 2020 Flat season version is set to follow.
It has entered into a commercial agreement with the Racing Post which means there is daily advertising in the paper. Tote dividends which out-perform the book and big accumulator pay-outs are being highlighted.
It is now back operating at Chester where it will be one of the track’s sponsors.
Still to come is a relaunched website and, as previously revealed on The Racing Hub, the return of the Double and Treble pool bets are in the pipeline.
High-profile, racing-related investors have put money into UK Tote Group, joining the people who purchased the Tote from Betfred. They include the Racehorse Owners Association.
All this is encouraging news for racing as profits from the Tote are earmarked for reinvestment in the sport.
But there still seems to be examples of where Tote betting is not being fully supported.
The standout exception is Ascot, who operate their own pool under the Bet with Ascot banner, albeit that the stakes are channelled into the Tote pool. But, for a racecourse which attracts a sizeable number of racegoers likely to be more inclined to bet in a pool, it is frustrating that the Tote brand is lost to them at the Berkshire track.
Kempton’s recent Unibet sponsored meeting featuring the Lanzarote Hurdle is another case in point. The racecard contained seven pages of advertisements for the online bookmaker. Fair enough, they backed most of the day’s racing.
But there was scant reference to betting with the Tote. Nothing said about the Placepot, Jackpots or other pool betting options.
What’s more, the 32-page racecard made no mention of racing at other racecourses, not least at sister Jockey Club Racecourses track, Warwick. Whatever the reason, it was an unfortunate omission.
The next major development for the Tote is the unveiling of its much-needed new website. It’s probable that it will be up and running in time for the Cheltenham Festival, and it should also herald the Tote adding to its range of pool bets.
Then comes the hard work of increasing a slice of the betting market in an environment where the overwhelming preference in Britain is to bet with the book with its options of taking a price and best odds guaranteed.
What’s needed is the technology to allow more accurate real-time information about pool sizes and dividends, with less variance from the actual post-race pay-outs. It’s something punters looking for value would welcome and it wouldn’t be a bad addition to odds-comparison sites.
Before Betfred purchased the Tote, it was one of racing’s biggest sponsors but not unnaturally the bookmaker took over the many of the sponsored races, not least the Cheltenham Gold Cup, before the racecourses and Betfred fell out.
Clearly, sponsorship must be evaluated by the Tote in terms of being marketing money well spent but one or two racecourses, fearing the loss of some high-profile sponsorships, must hope the Tote can fill the breach. In return, they should get fully behind the Tote
The £4 racecard
The question was posed on Twitter the other day on whether or not a Racing Post costing £3.50 represented value for money (brace yourself for the pre-Festival increase).
The same can be asked of the Newbury racecard last Wednesday which cost £4. It’s part of a track’s obligation to provide a racecard but it’s now doubtful that sales on a quiet day cover costs, hence the £4 being asked for a fairly basic guide to the day’s sport.
When Southwell began its all-weather racing it had intended to provide copies of the Racing Post, but was reminded that a racecard was a pre-requisite of staging the day’s sport.
Kempton’s racecard, referred to earlier, included a guide to train services under the heading “Regular Timetable”. On the day in question, the regular timetable was not in operation, so the value of the information was zilch.
♦ It is now a regular occurrence for sports venues to carry out bag searches, with varying degrees of rigour. What would be good is if they could take place under cover and not in the rain as was the case at Kempton the other day.