What is tote betting?

Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is the tote? And what is tote betting?

Tote is short for totalizator, and that is name for the system that calculates payouts on tote bets. According to Wikipedia, the first automated tote system was developed and run at Ellerslie racecourse in New Zealand in 1925.

Tote betting began in Britain with the foundation of ‘the tote’ in 1928, with the first bets being struck on the tote in July 1929.

So what is so special about tote betting?

Tote bets are pool bets, which mark them as different from both traditional bookmaker wagers, and more modern peer-to-peer (or exchange) bets.

With a pool bet, the total amount of money wagered – less deductions for administration etc – are divided among the winners.

So, for instance, if £10,000 is bet on a horse race, with £1,000 bet on the winning horse, each winner would receive £10 (£10,000 / 1000 = £10).

That basic example assumes no deduction (also known as takeout), but all tote pools in the world have a deduction/takeout, with dividends (the winning payoff) being declared against the net pool after deductions.

A full list of deductions by country and by bet can be found on the Deductions page on this site.