The Tote History

TotepoolIf you have already taken a good look at BestBettingSites.Online you will now know how intriguing the betting industry is. It is a mixture of technology and tradition, and it is part of the British social history.

The development of the Tote is without a doubt one of the most fascinating betting industry stories. The Tote was initially created by the UK government that wanted to have a slice of the betting cake and also keep some regulation in an industry that for his own nature was difficult to control. In this article, we will be looking into more reasons why the government decided to run the Tote and also the history of the game since it was launched for the first time in the period between the first and the second World War. In addition to this, we will also analyse where the Tote is going and what the future can hold for one of the most traditional and oldest forms of betting in Britain. If you want to more details check our dedicated Totepool guide.

The Origin of The Tote

After the First World War, the UK government realised that there were lots of people in the country willing to place bets on horse racing. Since there were legal bookmakers in racecourses, this wasn’t much of a problem, but the main issue was that lots of people were betting with illegal off-course bookies.

This was permitting rogue characters to start making lots of money from the horse racing betting, and in doing so, they were taking money away from the government and the horse racing industry. As it usually happens, when the government realised that they were, in fact, losing money they started to take stronger actions. In 1928 the parliament approved the Racecourse Betting Act which established The Racehorse Betting Control Board: this body aimed to make sure that they cash made would go back into the horse racing industry. In July 1929 the Tote was launched on two UK racecourses: Carlisle and Newmarket. Surely the interest to bet with off-course bookmakers didn’t die, and in 1930 a company called Tote Investors Limited was established: the aim of this company, which was not related with the government, was to ensure that some of the money bet off-course will go back into the Tote pool. In 1962 the government decided to buy that company.

What Is The Tote?

TotepoolThe Tote is a type of pool betting also called parimutuel betting. In plain English, this means that you place your bets with a particular stake. The stake is going into a ‘pool’ of money. If you manage to win you will get a return based on how big the pool is: the payout is determined by dividing the number of the winning bets by the amount of money in the pot. All pretty straightforward.

The main difference between The Tote and traditional fixed odds betting is that odds are not set by bookmakers but it is more determined but where the market is moving. Bookmakers made money differently: they set the odds so that they always have a margin. The Tote takes a cut from the overall pool before it is divided by the winners. So in short with The Tote, the fewer people are backing your horse, the more money you can win. The cut is the same thing as the bookmaker margin and allows The Tote to function as a company regardless of the results. The cut is taken before the winnings are calculated, so it is not something that a player has to worry about. The only thing to know that once you get the payout, the Tote has already got his cut.

What is Horserace Totalisator Board?

Since it was launched in 1928, The Tote has continued to operate in more or less the same way. Over the years, however, the betting industry went through several significant changes as in 1961 the Betting Levy Act permitted bookmakers to have a presence in the high street for the first time. In 1963 there was another Act called Betting, Gambling and Lotteries Act: this has primarily regulated The Tote until the modern day.

The Removal Of Restrictions With The 1972 Act

The main reason why the restrictions on the Tote were lifted is that other bookmakers were becoming very solid and the official government bookmaker was falling behind. As soon as the restrictions were lifted the Horserace Totalisator Board started to catch up with the competition also because it was the only company in the UK allowed to take pol bets.

In 1992 the Tote Direct was launched: this permitted betting sites to take bets that would then be added to the Tote Pool: this was due to capitalise in the great popularity of the game and get the pool to increase further and further. With the pool that was growing the horse racing industry was making more money thanks to the statutory levy that was generated by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.

Two big things were happening in the 1990s that impacted the Tote. The first one was allowing bookmakers shops to be open in the evening and the second one was the official partnership between Tote and Channel 4 Racing (1999).

Immediately the Tote, which was until then a form of betting only known by racing fans, got a mainstream audience. Following the partnership, a new type of Tote bet called Scoop6 was launched with punters that had to pick the winners of the 6 different races that were broadcasted live on Channel 4.

Scoop6 had great success and delivered the first ever horse racing betting millionaire. The success continued and the 22nd November 2008 more than £4 million were collected in the Scoop6 betting pool. The eight people that managed to win took away more than £430,000 each.

In 2004 the Gambling Act dictated that bookmakers had to stay close during Christmas Day but could be open on Good Friday: as a consequence, there was just one day a year where it was not possible to place a bet via the Tote. Everything was set for the Tote to become a private company and in preparation for this, the Horserace Totalisator Board was moved from the Home Secretary to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Privatisation Of The Tote

Totepool typesAfter the Labour Party won the election in 2004, they introduced the Horserace Betting and Olympic Lottery Act. This turned the Tote into limited company ToteSport and TotePool and in doing so removed any restrictions for those to be sold to private companies. In 2007 Gordon Brown confirmed the sale of the Tote, but there were some delays and the Labour government this time lost.

A coalition government were formed between the Tories and Liberal Democrats that had the privatisation of the Tote low on their priorities.

At the beginning of 2011, the new government said that a list of potential buyers of the Tote was defined, but it wasn’t confirmed the identity of the bidders. Following that the list was reduced further with just two bidders left in the running: those were the bookmaker Betfred which was owned by Fred Done and a business group known as Sports Investment Partners.

Despite some concerns by race lovers, Betfred bid won the tender having offered £265 million to get The Tote. The 50% of that deal was given immediately to the horse racing industry.

The Modern Tote

When Betfred got the Tote made a commitment to return £11 million to the horse racing industry followed by £9 per year for as long as the contract was in place. In fact, the horse racing industry got back around £12 million every year since Betfred has managed the Tote which evidently it is not a bad result. Despite this, the relationship between Betfred and the horse racing industry is not great.

In 2015 has wholly rebranded ToteSport and this was a change due to ensure the game will stand in the online betting era. They have also created a mobile app to allow people to bet on the go even on the Tote.

Tote Types of Bets

History of Grand NationalIn this section, we will take a look at the different types of bets that you can place on the Tote. This is not a complete list so if you want to know more check our totepool guide. You will, however, get an excellent understanding of the types of bets that you will be able to place.

Totewin – this is very similar to a win bet placed with a standard bookmaker with the main difference that the odds are set by the pool, the number of players that have won and also your bet size. The minimum amount that you can bet is £1
Toteplace – Also this type of bet has a £1 minimum stake, but in this one, you will be predicting that your horse will place.
Toteeachway – This is merely a win and place bet made into one. The minimum amount that you can bet is £2 with £1 that goes into the Win pool and £1 that goes into the Place pool.
Totedouble – In this one, you will need to predict the winner in two separate races. There is also a type of Tote that will allow you to do with three races. Minimum bet is again £1.
Totetrifecta – Here you will need to predict that horses that will place in the first three places of a race.
Toteexacta – You will need to predict the horse that will come first and second in the correct order. You can also play a different version of Toteexacta where you will guess horses to be in the first two positions in any order.
Toteswinger – Here you will need to predict the horses that will come in the top three and can be in any order.
Totejackpot – In this version of the Tote you will need to pick six winners across several races that take place on the same day. Races can also be from different meetings.
ToteScoop6 – This is very similar to the Totejackpot, but it is only available on the highest profile racing days.

Even though there have been some slight changes over the years, the format of Tote Bets has remained pretty consistent. The concept of the game has remained correctly as it was introduced back in the 1920s: all the bets get collected into a pool, and if you win, you will get the pool prize divided by the number of players that also have won.

Some people prefer fixed odds betting while some others Totepool: this is down to personal opinion however the fact is that you are likely to get slightly better odds on the tote vs a regular bookmaker.

What Is The Future Of The Tote

There are different opinions in regards to the privatisation: some believe it was a good thing while others don’t. Again, looking at the facts, Betfred has given back to the industry more money than did initially guaranteed. In addition to that £265 million was an excellent selling price.

The Racehorse Media Group (owner of several racecourses media rights in the UK) and The Jockey Club have both been discussing the opportunity to create a rival company to the Tote when Betfred’s exclusive rights to run the pool betting will end in 2018.

Looking at the stats though it is clear that betting within a pool-system is losing popularity fast. The horse racing industry believes that punters will prefer to spend their cash with a company that is strongly backed by the industry so that they are sure that any money collected will go straight back into the horse racing. It is difficult to say if this is true or not and can only be verified once the new company will be running.

Ascot, for example, is planning to run their own company named AscotBet and others are thinking of doing the same: whatever will happen it is unlikely that the future of horse racing and the betting industry will be a boring one.


FREE BETS (18+, T&C's Apply, Gamble Responsibly)
BET £10 GET £30 FREE
888 sport 1 - The Tote Betting
New customers only – Minimum deposit of £10 using deposit code 30F - A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £10 placed on any sports market - Minimum odds of 1/2 (1.5) - Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days - Free bet stakes not included in returns - Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time. General deposit method & withdrawal restrictions apply
william hill 1 - The Tote Betting
New William Hill online customers only. Min. unit stake of £10/€10 at odds of 1/2 or greater. Only the “win” part from EW bets will count. Free bet terms, payment method & country restrictions apply. Free bets credited as 3 x £10/€10. Free bet stakes are not returned as part of the settlement of successful free bets. All Free Bets must be wagered within 30 days. T&C's Apply, 18+ Only
bet365 logo - The Tote Betting
Open Account Offer - Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365. Min deposit £5 and 1x settled bet requirement to release Bet Credits. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.
BET £5, GET £20 FREE
Ladbrokes - The Tote Betting
18+ New UK+IRE customers. Paypal and certain deposit types and bet types excluded. Min £5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x £5 free bets. Free bets valid for 4 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply.
Coral - The Tote Betting
18+. UK+IRE only. Min first bet £5 at odds 1/2 or more. Tote and Pool excluded. Must be placed within 14 days of account reg. £20 credited as 4 x £5 free bets. Not valid with Cash Out. Free bet valid for 4 days. Free bet stake not returned. T&C's Apply,
betvictor 1 - The Tote Betting
New Customers only. Deposit and place a £5 qualifying bet at odds of 2.00 or greater within 7 days of opening a new account; excludes cashed out bets. Receive 2x £10 Free Sports Bets, valid on set events only (1 at odds 2.00 or greater), expires in 7 days, plus a £10 Casino Bonus, expires in 7 days. Wager the Casino Bonus 40x to withdraw winnings. Credit or Debit card only. Geographical Restrictions. T&Cs Apply. 18+ Only
betway 1 - The Tote Betting
New UK & Ireland customers only. Min Deposit: £10. First deposit matched up to £30. 1 x wagering at odds of 1.75+ to unlock Free Bet. Credit Card, Debit Card & PayPal deposits only. Terms Apply | 18+
comeon 2 - The Tote Betting
18+. New UK mainland customers only. 2. You must opt-in to the £10 Free Bet promotion upon registration. 3. Minimum £10 deposit and qualifying bet required at minimum odds of 4/5 (1.8) in any sportsbook market, within 14 days of opening account. Each way bets do not qualify for this offer. 4. Min. deposit of £10 required 5. You will receive your £10 Free Bet Token within 24 hours of your qualifying bet being accepted. T&C's Apply
SportNation - The Tote Betting
New customers only. Valid once per customer. Bonus expires after 30 days. Offer expires 31.05.19. 7x turnover at 1.6 minimum odds before withdrawal. Skrill and Neteller deposits excluded. 18+ only. BeGambleAware
betfred 1 - The Tote Betting
Only available to new customers from UK & Northern Ireland. You must stake £10 or more at single/cumulative odds of Evens (2.0) or greater on your first bet. Free bet balance of £30 credited within 48 hours of your first bet being settled. Free Bets expire after 7 days. E-Wallet restrictions apply. Game restrictions apply. Maximum 30 Free Spins on selected games. Free Spins expire after 7 days. T&C's Apply. 18+. Please Gamble Responsibly
NetBet - The Tote Betting
18+ / Matched free bet up to £25 / Dep. & Bet £10 or more / Single bet only on any sport / min. odds of 1/2 to qualify / T&Cs Apply
BET £20, GET £40 FREE
unibet 1 - The Tote Betting
New customers only. Minimum deposit £10. Free bets credited, regardless of first bet outcome (win/loss), once £20+ qualifying sportsbook bet has been placed. Free bet available for use on any market. Horse racing is excluded from offer. Cashed out bets will cancel the offer. First qualifying bet only. Free bet offer will expire after 30 days. £20 Casino bonus credited next working day from first deposit and has 35x wagering requirement. 18+. UKresidents only. T&Cs Apply.
betfair 1 - The Tote Betting
New customer offer. Place 5 x £10 or more bets to receive £20 in free bets. Repeat up to 5 times to receive maximum £100 bonus. Min odds 1/2 (1.5). Exchange bets excluded. T&Cs apply.
paddy power 1 - The Tote Betting
Risk Free 20: New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Paddy's Rewards Club: Get a £10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £10+. T&Cs apply.
betsafe 1 - The Tote Betting
Huge Amounts of Live Markets On BetSafe