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When it comes to racing, one of the major types of betting in Australia is totalisator betting – better known as the “tote”.

A tote is a system that allows pool (or ‘parimutuel’) betting. Punters bet into the tote pool, and the dividends that are paid out are a product of the sum total of all bets.

How does a tote work?

A tote takes the sum total of wagers placed on the race or event, takes out the operator’s commission rate (the “takeout”), and distributes the remainder of the funds to those who backed the winner, via a dividend.

Let’s look at a simple example: a win pool for the below race.

tote

Mathematically, that’s all there is to it. The final dividends are generally rounded down to the nearest 5c to 10c mark.

Tote pools

Our example above is the simplest pool: win betting, where there is only one successful selection. Totes also offer other common betting markets:

  • Place: the pool is split between the three horses that finish first, second and third.
  • Exotics, such as quinella, exacta, trifecta, First 4, quadrella and Big 6: the pool is split between all punters that have the winning combination of selections.
Totes in Australia

The automated totalisator is actually a local invention in our part of the world: it was first created by New Zealander George Julius, and the first working example was installed at Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland in 1913. Gloucester Park in Perth got the first Australian totalisator in 1917.

Major racetracks got totalisators, which competed with on-course bookmakers. Eventually, with governments keen to offer off-track betting and stamp out illegal SP bookmakers, state governments (and the New Zealand government) formed Totalisator Agency Boards (TABs) of their own, which ran government-owned, statewide totalisators that punters could access at all racetracks and off-course TABs.

Subsequently, most of these have been privatised and run by private companies. After the privatisations and some mergers, there are three totes now operating in Australia:

  • SuperTAB: The Victorian tote, operated by Tabcorp, with pools added in from the ACT (also operated by Tabcorp) and Western Australia (which is still state-owned).
  • NSWTAB: This is the NSW tote, and is also operated by Tabcorp.
  • UBET: Tote for Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

All three totes are now operated by Tabcorp – though the three pools remain separate.

Note that the totes don’t just operate on racing within their own states or territories. All three totes operate on all racing right across Australia, and around the world. When you see a race result, you’ll see the seperate dividends paid by each of the three totes.

The states mentioned are based on where the punter is located. For example, if you’re in Victoria, you’ll be betting into the SuperTAB tote on all races – whether the race is run in Victoria or any other state.

Tote Derivatives

In a relatively recent development, corporate bookmakers now offer tote dividends as an alternative to their own fixed-odds markets. Rather than betting with the bookie at fixed-odds, you can opt to instead take one of these tote derivative products. These are typically ‘Best Tote’, which means the bookie will pay out your bet at the highest dividend of the three Australian totes.

Therefore, it’s now a far better option to bet at Best Tote with a corporate bookmaker, rather than betting directly into your home state tote. You’ll get paid at the best of the three totes, rather than just your local tote price.

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