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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Done: racecourse pool betting plan is 'economic madness'

Fred Done: his exclusive pool betting licence expires in July next year
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Fred Done has delivered a withering verdict on racecourse plans to run a pool betting operation from next year, saying he would not invest a single pound in such an operation.

The Betfred boss described the proposal as "economic madness" and also revealed he had turned down an offer for the Tote from the racecourses.

Done bought the Tote for £265 million in 2011 but his exclusive pool betting licence expires in July next year.

This week a project steering board representing Jockey Club Racecourses, Arena Racing Company and a number of independent tracks made its first public statement of intent on the subject, saying it wanted to ensure Britain's tracks had "full control of their on-course pool betting operation".

In response Done said: "What I don't understand is racing's belief there is a pot of gold there. I don't believe there is, I don't believe there is room for two.

"Betting in this country is not like South Africa or France, where you have got monopolies. They have some sort of a chance.

"We make the Tote pay but it is not easy, so where they are coming from I don't know."

'I don't see how two totes can survive'

Betting industry veteran Neil Goulden has been appointed as chairman designate for a future racecourse-owned pool betting operation.

Done said: "Whoever they appointed for that job is going to have their work cut out to make a success of it. That's not having a go at Neil at all, but I just don't see how two totes can survive. I don't know where the liquidity is going to come from.

"The reality is the business that is taken on racecourses is win and place. Off course more than 90 per cent is in the exotics, the jackpot, the placepot, the Scoop6, the exacta, and we have got all those brands already.

"So how do they make it pay? I just don't know. They're going to pour £20 million into this. It's just economic madness is all I can say."

He continued: "If you ask me if I want to put £1 into their consortium as a shareholder, the answer would be no. I think they will regret it whatever they do.

"I promise you this is not sour grapes. It is commercial thinking where I'm coming from."

Tote offers rejected

Goulden said this week the courses were open to talking to Done about how they might work together.

Done said: "In the last few months I've been to see this committee, who said they wanted to buy the Tote off me and I told them categorically it's not for sale.

"It's in the Done stable, we're happy with it and no matter what happens when we lose our exclusivity in 2018 we are going to continue to trade."

Nigel Roddis has been seconded from the BHA to lead the racecourse project.

He said: "As you would expect we have had an ongoing dialogue with Betfred about future options concerning pool betting in British racing to ensure an orderly transition once the exclusive licence expires, and to achieve the best outcome for our sport and racegoers."

Not all of Britain's tracks are on board the racecourse project, with Chester and Bangor continuing with their in-house betting operation.

However, Ripon, who replaced the Tote with their own operation in 2013, will return to the fold next year.

Managing director James Hutchinson said: "We are sticking for this season and through until next July with Sportech.

"We are part of the discussions with regard to a new racecourse-wide pool betting operation. If that all works out our intention would be to join in with that."

What I don't understand is racing's belief there is a pot of gold there
E.W. Terms
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