If you’ve ever been anywhere near a horse racing circuit then you will have seen the Tote, even if you didn’t know what it was or understand how it works. It’s been in existence since 1928, meaning that even those of you who have never set foot on a race course will have seen Tote signs during your life. I’ll tell you a little bit about the history of the Tote further down this page.
I’ve set-up this site for two main reasons: To tell you about the best offers around and to help you understand aspects of betting that you might not have known much about before. For that reason I’ll be using this page to explain exactly what the Tote is and the different types of bets you can place via the Tote as well as some decent Totepool promotions that you’ll be able to find online.
What Is The Tote?
This is one of the key questions that some of you may well want answering. The Tote is, essentially, a betting pool. Where traditional bookies tend to offer fixed odds betting, the Tote’s winnings are defined by how much is bet divided by how many winners there are, minus a small cut for the operator of course.
The way the Tote operates is known as Parimutuel betting. In that sort of betting all of the same bets are ‘pooled’ together and the winnings, minus the house-take, are shared out amongst the winners according to the size of their stake. The way you bet is not dissimilar to what you’d do at a conventional bookmakers; there are singles, accumulators and forecast bets available.
The Tote is a slightly confusing entity, though, so don’t be worried if you don’t totally get it. Part of the confusion comes in the fact that it has been re-branded and changed hands during its history.
It was re-named as Totesport and Totepool in 2004 and was bought by Betfred in 2011. They kept its name and brand identity and essentially run it as a separate entity, with the totesport.com website having a fixed odds section almost identical to its parent company’s to add a touch more confusion to what the Tote does and doesn’t offer.
There are both syndicated and non-syndicated bookmakers that offer Tote bets. The syndicated ones are included in the Totepool pot and count towards the overall winnings. As you might have guessed from the name, the non-syndicated bookies pay you in line with the price you’d get from the official Tote but your money isn’t entered into the main pot. It’s also worth noting that not all bookmakers who offer Tote bets accept all Tote bet types. That’s why I’d always recommend that you’re probably better off placing your bets with Totesport or Betfred.
Types Of Tote and Totepool Bets
I’m reasonably convinced that the Tote actually quite enjoys having an air of mystique about it, so they’ve come up with bet names that sound a bit complicated. They’re actually not and I’ll explain each of them here.
The biggest thing to remember is that no matter which of these methods you choose to use, the winnings you’ll receive are made up of the net amount in the pot split up between the winners according to the size of their stake.
Totewin – This is arguably the least confusing name of all the Tote bets. Here you’re placing a win bet, nothing more complicated than that. You’ll often find that the odds are better than the starting price across the rest of the industry. Your minimum stake here is £1 and you can bet on a horse’s name, number or simply back the favourite if you’d prefer.
Toteplace – Another one where the name explains it. You’re betting that your horse will place and you’re betting into a pot separate from the win pot. The minimum you’ll have to bet on this one is £1, too, and it’s worth looking here if you’re not 100% confident that your horse will win but reckon it’s got a decent chance of getting near the front.
Toteeachway – The last of the bets where the name tells you what you need to know, this bet is a minimum of £2 as it’s actually split into two pots. You’ll have £1 in the win pot and £1 in the place pot, or a similar split of your money depending on how much you decide to bet.
Totedouble – This bet is for those of you who fancy predicting the winner in two separate races at a selected meeting chosen by Totepool. You’re back to a minimum bet of £1 for this one.
Totetreble – Similar to the Totedouble, here you’re predicting the winners from three races at a meeting specified by Totepool. Minimum bet is still £1.
Totetrifecta – One of the harder bets to win, this one is asking you to predict the horses that will finish the race in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. It’s normally one for races with eight or more horses running. Minimum stake here is £2 and if you’re lucky the pot of winners will be smaller so you’ll get more back if you pull it off.
Toteexacta – Fancy your chances of predicting the horses that will finish 1st and 2nd? That’s what this bet is for. You can do a combination exacta, which allows you to pick any two horses to finish 1st and 2nd in either order. You can also go for a banker exacta, where you choose a ‘banker’ horse that will definitely finish 1st and then a few horses, often three, that could finish second. Minimum bet remains at £2.
Toteswinger – No, this isn’t a sexually experimental bet. Instead it’s allowing you to choose two horses that will finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd in whatever order. You might also see this one called an ‘exotic bet’ and you’ll find that each outcome gets a different dividend. The minimum stake is still £2.
Totejackpot – This bet used to require you to pick all six winners from a specific meeting on a day. In October 2015 they changed it to mean that you instead need to pick six winners from different meetings throughout the day. It goes without saying that this is a really difficult one to win, but the flip side of that is that if you do pull it off you’re likely to win a decent chunk of money. The minimum wager is £1 and if no one wins it the jackpot rolls over.
Totescoop6 – This bet is similar to the jackpot but is perhaps even slightly harder to win, if you can believe that. It normally runs on Saturdays or special days such as Boxing Day and is commonly one races that are high-profile enough to be on the tele. You stake £2 per line and predict the winners of six randomly selected races from different meetings and race types. Because they’re different types of races it’s trickier to study the form across the board, hence this one being harder to win.
Toteplacepot – This one seems easy in principle but horses have a way of being annoying when you need them the most. You need to pick six horses that will place throughout the first six races at a meeting. You’ll have to stake at least 5p per line for this one and you can choose as many horses to back as you feel like. Let’s say over the course of six races you choose to back one horse for the first two races, then two in the next three and then one, then three in the final race. That’s 1x1x2x2x2x3, which is 24 lines. At 5p per line that’s £1.20.
Totequadpot – If you’ve missed the first few races then don’t worry. The Totequadpot is for the 3rd to the 6th races of every UK race meeting. All you need to do is pick a horse to place in each of those races and place a minimum bet of 10p per line. As with the Toteplacepot, you can bet on numerous horses but your price will go up with each line you place.
Not a promotion as such, but something worth drawing your attention to if you’re not necessarily a horse racing fan. This bet costs £2 and asks you to predict the correct score and result from six different matches played on a Saturday as chosen by Totesport or Betfred (normally Premier League games but not exclusively so). If you correctly predict all six results and score lines then you’ll win yourself at least a share of the pool.
As well as winning the pool you’ll also get entered into the Bonus Fund, whereby you pick the result of a specific match from the following week’s set of games and if you get it right then you could win £1 million. If you don’t get 6/6 of your original picks correct but are only wrong in one then you might get share of the first consolation dividend, whilst those of you with 4/6 right could get some of the second consolation dividend.
Tote and Totepool History
The Racehorse Betting Control Board was a statutory corporation created in 1928 as a result of the Racecourse Betting Act. It was set-up by Winston Churchill and owned by the British government up until it was sold to Betfred in 2011. The idea behind it was to have a state-controlled alternative to illegal bookmakers that were run off courses.
The Betting Levy Act of 1961 saw it become known as the Horserace Totalisator Board. In Cockney rhyming slang it was called ‘the goat’ (billy goat – tote). Initially its objective was to ensure the distribution of funds from the horserace betting levy board. Things began to take on a more direct relevance to the betting industry when the Tote opened its first high street shops in 1972.
The company grew to have over 500 shops as well as more than 60 on-course locations. In 1992 the Tote Direct was set-up to allow other bookmakers to take Tote bets, with the money entering the pool. At the time of writing Tote bets can be placed in over 7000 shops as well as via numerous online bookies.
Scoop6 was created in 1999 and has gone on to become one of the most popular Tote bets that you can place. No surprise considering that horse racing betting’s first millionaire was created from this method of betting.
When talks to privatise the Tote emerged at the end of the 1980s there was resistance from within the horse racing industry. Legislation on the matter wasn’t tabled until 2008 and the sale didn’t go through until 2011. Unsurprisingly virtually all of the big bookmaking companies placed a bid to run the Tote, but it was Betfred that won it with a bid believed to be in the region of £265 million.
As part of the sale Betfred were given a monopoly on tote betting at race-courses in the UK until June 2018, at which point rival pools could be legitimately set up. Each course could then decide on which company they will use to run their pool betting, and equally online bookies could choose alternative pools for betting.
Fortunately the Tote was kept together as a single consortium following the end of the Betfred monopoly. A racehorse owner, Alex Frost, desperate to keep the tote as a single pool bough 25% of the original tote with the option to but the remaining 75% from Fred Done (owner of Betfred) in the future. The Tote will continue to run the shops, online site and marketing.
Another group under the name Britbet were chosen by 55 UK racetracks to run their pools, making up the clear majority of leading UK tracks (with the exception of Ascot who created their own brand AscotBet in partnership with the existing Tote). Britbet made an agreement with Fred Done and Altezi just before the deadline in October 2018 to agree to keep the tote as a single pool online and offline, all under the original Tote name.
This deal will remain in place until 2025 and therefore punters in reality will see little differences on the face of it. What will change is the amount of money going back to UK racecourses and racing in general, which is set to double. Bringing the tote closer to UK racing is seen as the only way for it to survive long term and the formation of this new consortium seems like a good step in that direction. If Alzeti manage to buy the remaining 75% of the original Tote it will help free it from Betfred and the internal profit motives that many believe have hampered the tote over the previous 8 years.
The long term effects on the tote are largely unknown, we can guarantee the Tote will remain as a single pool until 2025, perhaps the Tote may even make it to 100 years old in 2028. We are also promised lower commissions (i.e. better customer odds), more £1M+ jackpots along with new promos and even new pools. Following this however who knows if the tote will be split up into separate pools when the agreement ends.
If it is some think it will add competition and make the industry healthier by adding new features, pools and bet types. Others think diluting the current tote pools (which only represent less than 4% of bets in the UK any way) might further damage the market. Only time will tell, Betfred and Totepool are likely to always remain the biggest but expect to see some major changes over the next few decades, especially if you attend race tracks themselves.
The fact that pool betting still represents over 50% of horse racing bets in some countries, such as Australia, means the Tote is by no means doomed and in the right hands with the right approach it could become a national betting favourite again.