Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is reported to be engaged in discussions with a number of third parties on the sale of all or part of Tote Ireland to private interests, with the Tote already undergoing extensive review.
The Tote has faced a number of challenges in recent years, reported by The Irish Times, having struggled to compete with an industry dominated by online betting firms combined with a drop in Irish racetracks footfall.
Last year, figures showed a 33.3 percent drop in overall betting for the tote, down to € 69.2 million, largely attributable to a shifting global regulatory environment. The Tote was hit by the Israeli government to ban betting in pools, but it also struggled to compensate for the shortcomings in on-course turnover, which also fell by 7.7 percent to just € 10.7 million.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said on Sunday: “If we continue to operate the way it is it will struggle going forward with such a small and competitive market involving bookmakers online and exchanges.”
The Irish Tote, a wholly-owned HRI company, has been in business for nearly 90 years and is committed to reinvesting all profits in Ireland’s horseracing industry.
The results of the analysis have been confirmed to be delivered to the HRI board at its next meeting on December 16, which will concentrate on the Tote’s future. Any changes can be made until the renewal of the permit is due in April 2021.
“We’ve been looking at the tote for some time, and the board has asked us to bring options back to them,” Kavanagh continued. “If you look at tote business globally, particularly in countries where there’s no monopoly, the on-course business is suffering the same way as on-course bookmaking is trending.
“It looks like there’s move towards consolidation in totes, bigger international pools and stuff like that. They’re some of the options that are under consideration,.”
Kavanagh did not confirm the potential sale of the tote to third parties as a whole or as a percentage, but he stressed that the ongoing review focused on a long-term strategy rather than on specific negotiations.
He said: “[That is] pre-empting discussions, but all options are being considered. The tote is not specifically HRI’s to sell. It operates on the basis of a licence issued every seven years by the government, and HRI has the technology and the people and the brand product.
“I don’t want to pre-empt anything, but you would have access to capital, access to technology, access to international markets; all these are issues that other parties could bring to the table in a stronger way. If you look at global tote competition, Tote Ireland is a very small element within the context of totes that operate in other countries.”