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What is the ‘Tote’ betting in horse racing?

In parimutuel horse gambling, the Tote is the computer system that calculates and displays the odds on each horse and then determines the payouts after the race is declared official.

The name Tote is derived from the Horserace Totalisator Board, an ingenious contraption that first debuted in the U.K. at the Newmarket and Carlisle racetracks in 1929. It could – and still can — calculate the payoffs in multiple wagering pools within a minute or two, then authorize payment for winning tickets.

Originally, the system just had to spit out win, place and show payouts, but as bettors’ tastes shifted more toward so-called “exotic” wagering, the computations got more complicated. Today the equipment may have to figure payouts for 20 separate pools after accounting for scratches and other variables.

There are other types of betting on horse racing that don’t use the Tote formula, such as “fixed odds” (similar to sports betting) and “exchange” (like a stock market), that are popular in the U.K. and the EU, but not so much in the USA. That may be starting to change. You can register a Tote.co.uk account and try tote betting with a new customer offer.