The Tote, formerly the Horserace Totalisator Board and called in rhyming slang the nanny,[1] is a British bookmaker with head offices in Wigan. It was owned from its formation in 1928 by the UK Government but was sold to Betfred in July 2011, and later sold to UK Tote Group, formerly Alizeti Capital, in October 2019.[2] Under the brand totesport the Tote had 514 high street betting shops,[3] outlets on most of Britain's 60 racecourses, as well as internet and call centre divisions. The company is known for its pool bets such as the Scoop6, and until 13 July 2008 was the only organisation in the UK that was allowed to run pool betting on horseracing. On 13 July 2018 Colossus Bets among others entered the UK market offering Horse racing (tote) pools also in competition with The Tote.

The Tote
HeadquartersWigan, Greater Manchester
ProductsSports betting, Casino, Games and Bingo.
OwnerUK Tote Group (formerly Alizeti Capital)
Number of employees
over 100


A branch of the Tote in Bramley, Leeds. Later called "Betfred"; now closed

The Racehorse Betting Control Board was created by the Racecourse Betting Act 1928,[4] as a statutory corporation.[5] It was set up by Winston Churchill as a government-appointed board, with the intention of providing a safe, state-controlled alternative to illegal off course bookmakers and ensuring that some gambling revenues were put back into the sport of horse racing.[6] The first major race meetings with tote betting were the flat race meetings at Newmarket (July Course) and Carlisle on 2 July 1929.

Under the Betting Levy Act 1961 the board was reconstituted as the Horserace Totalisator Board (the Tote), with responsibility for the redistribution of funds to racing transferred to the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

The Tote opened its first high street betting shop in 1972, and has since grown to employ more than 4,000 staff. Tote Direct was set up in 1992 to channel tote bets from other high street bookmakers into tote pools. Now tote betting is accepted in more than 7,000 betting shops across the UK (the majority of which are non-Tote owned shops) as well as via other online gambling websites.

In 1999, the Tote linked up with Channel 4 Racing to introduce the popular Scoop6 bet which involves bettors trying to select the winner of six televised races. This bet produced the first horserace betting millionaire. More millionaires followed. A record single-day turnover, in excess of £4 million, was bet into the Scoop6 pool on 22 November 2008.

The Tote has formal pool betting links from similar organisations in Ireland, Germany, France, Holland, Cyprus, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, the USA and South Africa.


Privatisation was first suggested in 1989 by the then Conservative government following a study by Lloyds Bank into a possible sell off.[7] However, these plans were met with strong opposition from the racing industry and were later abandoned by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard in 1995.[8]

After the 1997 general election Howard's Labour successor Jack Straw launched a fresh study and privatisation of the organisation was made a manifesto commitment in 2001. To enable privatisation the Horserace Betting and Olympic Lottery Act 2004 was passed with the intention of converting the Tote from a statutory corporation to a limited company so that a sale could take place.[9] The then Chancellor Gordon Brown announced plans for privatisation in the 2006 Budget and the Government invited a racing consortium and Tote staff to formally bid for the Tote by 26 January 2007. This bid was successfully submitted but was rejected by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as it was backed by private equity. On 5 March 2008, the Government announced that the Tote would be sold on the open market. However, after an extensive audit, the prevailing financial situation forced the Government to opt to retain the status quo until further notice. On 12 October 2009, Gordon Brown, at that point Prime Minister, announced plans for the sale of the Tote along with a number of other publicly owned assets, although no progress was made before the 2010 general election.[10]

Under the new Coalition government, a competitive bidding process ensued with 18 bidders entering at the first round stage. On 31 January 2011, the government announced that a short-list had been drawn-up for the next round of the process but declined to confirm which bids were on it. There were believed to be five, including Betfred, David and Simon Reuben, Gala Coral Group, Sports Investment Partners led by Sir Martin Broughton and a foundation set up by the existing management, although there were indications of a sixth. Stan James was suggested as this sixth party but declined to comment when asked.[3] In May 2011 it was reported that only two bidders remained in the process, Betfred and Sports Investment Partners.[11] On 3 June 2011, it was confirmed that Betfred had been chosen by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt as the successful bidder, for a reported figure of £265m.[12] The sale process was completed on 13 July 2011.[13]

Key datesEdit

  • 1928 Racecourse Betting Act passed (August) Racecourse Betting Control Board (the Tote) set up to handle on-course cash pool bets on horse racing
  • 1929 First meeting operated under Licence: West Street Harriers (13 March)
  • First meeting operated with Board's staff: Old Surrey & Burstow (27 April)
  • First major meetings: Newmarket (July Course) and Carlisle (2 July)
  • 1930 Tote Investors Ltd set up as an independent company to handle off-course credit tote bets
  • 1933 First grants made from Tote profits to Hunters' Improvement Society, promoters of point-to-point meetings and pony racing
  • 1956 First sponsored race: Tote Investors Cup (Kempton)
  • 1961 Betting Levy Act transferred responsibility for distribution of funds to racing to the Levy Board; Board reconstituted as Horserace Totalisator Board; Tote Investors Ltd opened two betting shops to handle tote pool bets only
  • 1963 Tote buys Tote Investors Ltd
  • 1972 Tote permitted to handle bets on all sports
  • 1973 Tote Bookmakers launched
  • 1986 Live TV pictures in betting shops
  • 1992 Tote Direct launched (joint venture with Corals)
  • 1993 Betting shops open in the evening
  • 1995 Sunday racing (May: Newmarket and Salisbury)
  • 1997 Tote permitted to handle bets on all events, including numbers. Ladbrokes join Tote Direct
  • 2002 Tote betXpress internet service launched
  • 2004 Official unveiling of totesport/totepool
  • 2009 Two year deal to sponsor Hull City A.F.C.
  • 2011 Sale of the Tote to Betfred
  • 2019 Sale of the Tote to UK Tote Group

History of Tote pool betsEdit

  • 1929 Win and Place pools
  • 1930 Daily Double launched (discontinued 1985) Special Autumn Double (Cesarewitch/Cambridgeshire)
  • 1931 Ante-post bets on Cambridgeshire and Manchester November Handicap (money was placed in main pools)
  • 1933 Straight forecast pool (3 or 4 runner races) (discontinued 1939)
  • 1934 Unsuccessful experiment with Single Pools (Win and Place bets in the same pool)
  • 1939 Daily Treble (discontinued 1985)
  • 1947 : Newbury)
  • 1979 Top Three Jockey Pool at Ascot
  • 1983 Super Double and Super Treble (Scottish courses only) (discontinued 1983)
  • 1991 Trio (discontinued 1998)
  • 1994 Quadpot launched (June: Pontefract and Nottingham) and Multibet (May: Goodwood)
  • 1998 Trifecta launched (August: Goodwood)
  • 1999 Scoop6 launched (July)
  • 2000 Exacta launched (January)
  • 2008 Swinger and Super7 launched (Super7 Discontinued 2011)


  1. ^ Ayto, John; Simpson, John (2010). Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199232055. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  2. ^ "new-ownership-heralds-new-era-for-the-tote". UK Tote Group. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b Scutts, Andrew (2 February 2011). "Reuben brothers confirmed as still in running for Tote". Racing Post. London. p. 5.
  4. ^ "Betfred Corporate – History".
  5. ^ The Committee Office, House of Commons. "Forty-Second Report". House of Commons – Public Accounts. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  6. ^ "BBC: Racing Industry to buy Tote". BBC News. 2 March 2000. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  7. ^ "Tote bid result: Good for racing?". BBC News. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  8. ^ "Straw urged to sell the Tote". Independent. 3 January 1999. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Horserace Betting and Olympic Lottery Act 2004". Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  10. ^ "Brown unveils £16bn assets sale". BBC News. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2009.
  11. ^ "Photo-finish for the Tote sale saga". Financial Times. 22 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Betfred is the winning bidder for the Tote". BBC News. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  13. ^ "Betfred Tote Deal Complete". Sporting Life. 15 July 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2011.[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit