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The Tote is different from traditional bookmakers, in that it is betting from a cumulative pool of prize money rather than on fixed odds return. This means you place your bet and your stake goes into a ‘pool’ of money. Each bet type has its own respective pool. Odds are affected by how many people bet, how much they bet, and who and what they bet on.
All of these elements will affect your share of winnings if your bet comes through (the less people backing the same horse as you, the more money you get back). Once the race is over, the pool is divided up, with the Tote getting a share of the pool and winners receive a portion depending on their bet.
The Tote was initially set up in 1928 and was government owned. With bets on horse racing becoming increasingly popular in the wake of the first world war, more people were turning to unlicensed bookmakers rather than the official bookmakers at the courses. This meant that some people were able to manipulate the winnings and make a lot of money that wasn’t regulated.
With support from Winston Churchill, the Tote was established to help regulate this, and to ensure profits from betting were being fed directly back into industry.
The Tote was bought by Betfred for a term of 7 years in 2011, with commitments to pump millions of pounds back into the horse racing industry. However since this contract completed in 2018, there has been a movement by ARC, Jockey Club and several independent courses to reclaim the Tote, meaning a greater slice of the profits is returned to the racecourses themselves.
There are several different bets that can be made (see our jargon buster for more details) but the most popular bets can be found below:
All racecourses have tote betting facilities onsite, that will display the latest odds. You can visit a Tote station, or if you are in hospitality you will likely be able to place bets with a representative who has a handheld device. You can also take advantage of tote betting online.