Wednesday March 5th 2008
The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) welcomes the news that the government is set to heed its advice and put state-owned betting company the Tote up for auction.
The Institute's director, Dr Eamonn Butler, said:
“The government has finally seen sense after exhausting the other options. Our complaint to the European Commission prevented the government selling the Tote cheaply to a group of well-off racing interests, at a cost of millions of pounds to taxpayers. Selling the Tote at an open auction will get the best possible deal for taxpayers – and might even help Alistair Darling to plug some of the black hole in the government's finances."
The government's original plan was to sell the Tote to the Racing Trust "for the good of racing". But the ASI argued that a discounted sale to a commercial consortium of racecourse owners would not realize the Tote’s true value, and so would damage taxpayers’ interests and distort the existing competitive market in betting.
The ASI submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission, arguing that a cut-price sale to racing interests contravened the EU’s competition rules, and constituted an illegal subsidy to industry, banned under the EU treaties.
The Commission twice agreed that there was merit in this case, ultimately forcing the government to abandon their plans.