The Tote picks College Hill as first corporate agency

Pool-betting group The Tote has hired its first corporate PR agency in a bid to speed up its long-mooted privatisation.

College Hill Associates has also been hired to distance The Tote from the corruption allegations that have tarnished the sport of racing in recent months, positioning The Tote as 'the jewel in the crown of British racing'.

College Hill corporate partner Ron Hepburn, who leads a six-strong team on the account - which was won after a three-way pitch - said the campaign's key message was that 'a bet on The Tote is a bet for racing'.

A sell-off of The Tote has been given added impetus since Labour came to power in 1997; legislation to transform The Tote into a 'racing trust' is scheduled to go before Parliament in November as part of the Gambling Bill.

Hepburn denied College Hill would undertake lobbying work, saying that was handled by The Tote itself, but he added that The Tote was keen to see 'clarification' as to its future status.

In the spring the Office of Fair Trading is expected to announce the next steps in its investigation into competition issues in racing. The investigation follows complaints about the supply of pre-race data to betting shops.

An OFT spokesman said The Tote was not involved in this investigation although the OFT may feed into an ongoing Department for Culture, Media and Sport's review into The Tote's status.

'The way the racing industry has been examined in the past year or so, it's important to see that The Tote is the jewel in the crown of British racing,' said Hepburn, adding: 'It is run by racing, for racing'.

The Tote puts most of its profits back into racing and the organisation is Britain's largest commercial sponsor of the sport.

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