It is expected Cook will weigh into the on-going debate whether to sell the Tote to a racing trust or simply end its pool-betting monopoly by opening up the market to other operators. The Tote is seen as unsophisticated by private sector betting rivals Ladbrokes and Coral, which have revamped their shops in a bid to win more customers.
College Hill chairman Alex Sandbag was tight-lipped about what Cook would actually be doing beyond confirming the former Leader of the House of Commons’s initial appointment: ‘He’s been hired as a consultant with no definite end date,’ Sandberg said.
Sandberg claimed it was Cook’s interest in racing rather than his fame or political accomplishments that had influenced College Hill’s decision: ‘He’s a huge fan of British racing which is primarily why we’ve hired him,’ Sandberg added.
There has been much press speculation that the Tote, often called the government’s bookmaker, will be sold off next year and so break a 74-year monopoly on licensed pool betting across British racecourses. But Sandberg would not be drawn on Cook’s possible involvement with this: ‘The future of Tote is up to various departments in government. Mr Cook has joined us primarily in an advisory capacity.’
Robin Cook won wide acclaim for his dramatic parliamentary resignation speech over the Iraq war in March this year.