A bid to offload Britain’s state-owned bookies has become the latest victim of the banks and shares crisis.

The Government had planned to, but now — according to a statement given to MPs yesterday by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe — a sale is “not appropriate in current market conditions”.

A previous bid to flog it to a racing trust in 2005 was called off when it became clear that the cut-price deal would have been blocked by Brussels under EU-competition laws.

And talks with a racing industry consortium collapsed earlier this year when they failed to meet the £400 MILLION price tag set by independent consultants Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Buyers

Potential suitors are now said to include New Football Pools operator Sportech, Gala Coral, Betfred, and Paddy Power.

But ministers are expected to wait for at least 12 months in the hope of getting a better price.

Mr Sutcliffe said: “It is right that the Tote is now given time to grow the business so that any future sale will achieve maximum value.

“In particular, I would expect the Tote and racing to continue to work closely together for the benefit of the sport and the punter.”

The Tote currently employs more than 4,000 staff in 540 shops and is a major presence on Britain’s 59 racecourses.






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