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Horse Racing: Racing is in 'last-chance saloon' over Tote sale, says Malton MP Greenway.

Byline: Howard Wright

THE proposal for the Tote to be sold to a staff trust, with full backing from a racing consortium comprising racecourses and prominent owners, has put the sport in the "last-chance saloon", according to former Tory shadow sports minister John Greenway, whose Ryedale constituency includes Malton, writes Howard Wright.

Greenway, who is joint chairman of the all-party racing and bloodstock committee, said yesterday: "The combined bid could be the last chance that racing has to secure the Tote and avoid a sale on the open market."

He added: "Although MPs across the parties who back racing continue to support the sale of the Tote to racing, and have made it clear that a sale on the open market is not politically acceptable, it worries me greatly that we may be powerless to stop such a sale.

"Parliament has already passed the legislation, and it's hard to see what we can do in the end to prevent it. So, it's my intuition that we may be in the last-chance saloon here.

"We have done everything we can to help convince the sports minister Dick Caborn and the treasury that a Tote staff and racing consortium must be supported, and I'm encouraged by their willingness to progress the idea."

Greenway said he genuinely believed that government ministers would like to honour their promise of racing involvement in the Tote sale.

However, he added: "I equally sense that ministers now want this issue settled quickly.

"So, in my judgement, it's vital that all parties unite in an effort to conclude the sale in racing's favour while we have the chance."

Greenway, who chaired a select committee that paved the way for the government's earlier decision to scrap the statutory levy system, urged ministers to make an early formal announcement confirming their intention to retain racing's major source of central funding.

He said: "It's not the solution we wanted originally, but judicial interference has left racing, government and the bookmakers with no alternative, at least for the foreseeable future.

"Whether it's the levy or the Tote, compromise appears to be the only way of securing racing's crucial income stream."

Greenway was speaking at a dinner arranged by the Horseracing Sponsors' Association in London, and he paid tribute to his hosts' "tremendous financial contribution" to racing, which currently runs to pounds 23 million a year.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 17, 2006
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