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Bwin adds horseracing

Online giant Bwin has added horseracing to its betting line-up, including fixtures from British racing’s stable. Stefan Wukovitsch, who is in charge of product management betting at Bwin, explained: “On the new platform Bwin customers get to choose from a string of horse races from all across Europe, Canada and the US. Our partners guarantee an attractive line-up with up to 300 races a day, including live broadcasts. This line-up is set to expand in the months ahead.”

Government asks for interested buyers in the Tote

Once again, the Tote Organisation is up for sale. After previously falling foul of European competition laws, too much bank debt and a dwindling market, will the new sale process be able to finish the job?


he Tote Organisation has been officially put up for sale again, but the govern- ment will be hoping for some competi-

tion from willing bidders if it is to generate more than £200m for the business. Under the Labour government, the DCMS was happy to accept a bid from a consortium of racing interests for nearly £400m but the Treasury put the brakes on the deal saying it was too reliant on funds loaned from the banks. Since then the value of the Tote has dwindled as have the fortunes of the retail betting industry. The government’s intentions, which were originally signalled in the 22 June Budget, were laid out in a Parliamentary statement by minister for gambling John Penrose last month. He said: “The government are now preparing to launch an open market process in the late autumn in which they will invite proposals from interested parties. This process will be open to all organisations who have an interest in the Tote, and the govern- ment expect to be in a position to update the House early in the new year. The government will continue to liaise closely with the board of the Tote and with racing interests as this process unfolds.”


country’s gaming industry. The Remote Gambling Association’s Clive Hawkswood commented: “We hope that these rulings dispel the myth that EU law gives Member States total discretion to decide their gambling policies. The ECJ has made it clear that they have to comply with EU law and that gambling is not an exception. In the circum- stances it is impossible to see how the existing State Treaty can be retained in any- thing like its current form. In the light of this judgement we are urging the German authorities to move towards the introduction of a non- discriminatory licensing regime which will provide the right safeguards for con- sumers, rejuvenate the gam- bling market and ensure that German law is properly com- pliant with EU law.”

Meanwhile, the Euro- pean Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) described the judgement a ‘landmark’. EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligné said: “There is a need for a politi- cal solution that does justice to the demand of consumers to play online and that at the same time ensures a high level of con- sumer protection. Other Member States have opened or are opening their markets and moving away from a monopoly regime to a multi- operator licensing system. They show that consumers can be better protected in a market that is both regu- lated and open to competi- tion. It is now up to German politicians to draw the appropriate conclusions and take their responsibil- ity towards their con- sumers.”

The DCMS, which has said proposals will be welcome from both private bidders and other parties, has been tasked with finding a method that secures value for the taxpayer and ‘recognises the support the Tote cur- rently provides to the racing industry’. A surprise bidder for the organisation might be William Hill, although the company said there would have to be changes to the ‘archaic’ competition laws in order for it to compete. The firm told Reuters: “We believe that the Office of Fair Trading needs to revisit the archaic compe- tition tests which have looked at the market in terms of betting shops - the true market is a global one that includes online and betting exchanges.”


The last time Hill’s bought an estate of a comparable size - StanleyBet’s 630 shops back in 2005 - it was forced to sell almost a fifth of the shops onwards, ironically to the Tote, in order to comply with the OFT’s local competition ruling. Betfred’s Fred Done has also thrown his hat into the ring again. “We are a definite runner. I am putting a financial and legal team together and my expectation is that there will be no more than a handful of serious players in contention. The advantage that we can see in Betfred acquiring the Tote is that we are only eight miles up the road from its headquarters and there would be fewer jobs shed if it came to us than anyone else. We are doing our homework and, if the figures stack up, then we will put in a bid.” Other firms expected to be interested are Paddy Power, Gala Coral and, potentially, stock market listed adult gaming centre and bingo hall operator Praesape.

British Horseracing Authority chief execu- tive Nic Coward responded to the govern- ment’s announcement positively: “Racing, through the British Horseracing Authority, has been in close dialogue with government about resolving the future of the Tote for a number of months. A creative and modern approach is needed. We look forward to con- tinuing this constructive process, with the interests of racing at its heart, as has been confirmed by the chancellor, the secretary of state and the minister in the statement, which we welcome.”

The Association of British Bookmakers’ Patrick Nixon has also given some support to the announcement. He commented: “We can only say that we are pleased that the government has given some clear guidance on how it is going to proceed and that it will be adopting an open market approach to the sale, thus opening up a wider range of alter- native opportunities to those that hitherto seemed to be available.”

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