On the 22nd October last year, Totepool, recently bought by bookmaker Fred Done, announced that they would be increasing the deductions from it’s win pool by a staggering 22% (from 13.5% to 16.5%), supposedly in order to encourage co-mingling of bets from overseas punters into British pools, and thus to increase their overall strength and stability. Phil Siers, the MD of Totepool, insisted that punters would eventually enjoy a much improved betting product as a result of the change. He cited the example of the guy wanting to have £1’000 on a horse that was showing at 12.00, who would have seen the return immediately drop to 6.00 or even 5.00, but who under the new system could be expected to see it drop to just 11.60.
Roll forward 10 months to see a Racing Post headline of “Tote to probe freak dividends“. It appears that there have been a number of discrepancies recently in the Tote payout when compared to starting prices, the most extreme ones being a 1/4 shot paying out £7.10 and an 11/2 shot paying out 1.10. The excuses have been that they were “both small fields with short-priced favourites, little liquidity and poor on-course turnover” and that “we have a global market with money coming in from a variety of sources“. So it appears that the necessary increase in deductions to encourage overseas money and create a more robust pool is actually having the opposite effect. No serious UK punter in their right mind would consider having a decent bet into a tote pool with the present system.
To my mind, the only way to encourage more betting into pools is by slashing deductions from the win and place markets. This should help to ensure that in the majority of cases, betting on the Tote will return an SP the same as or greater than that of the bookmakers. Confidence could then return to the pools which would have the snowball effect of seeing the increased liquidity and stability that is surely the aim of any pool betting system.
When the government took the decision to sell off the family jewels (that they never really owned in the first place) and sold the Tote to the highest bidder, there were many, myself included, that felt it was yet another nail in the funding of British Racing. A robust Tote in the hands of British Racing could and should have been the outcome, wirth profits pumped back into prize money. It will be interesting to see what happens once the current period of exclusivity enjoyed by the present owners of the Tote ends in a few years time.
We have one runner tonight in the last at Windsor – Idle Curiosity won nicely last time out at Ffos Las, and thankfully we don’t have quite so far to travel tonight. Her form has a slightly in and out look to it, as she has put in some inexplicably bad runs from time to time. Hopefully she will be on a going day today, and whilst drawn wider than ideal should be capable of putting up a bold show.