Hopes that the UK government will announce final bidders by ICE 2011
 
The latest attempt to auction off the Tote, the UK's state bookmaking organisation, could deliver interesting news in time for the ICE exhibition in London at the end of January.
 
The shortlist of bidders could be announced in time for ICE 2011, with the Racing Post newspaper speculating that the shortlist may be reduced to as few as three ‘interested parties' from an initial field of 13.
 
All parties have been told to prepare for a decision within three weeks, a period which would run through to the middle day of ICE 2011.
 
According to the Racing Post, the three frontrunners are Betfair, the Reuben Brothers (7/2) and Sportech (4/1). The publication claims that Betfair could use the Tote as a driver for their expansion plans but may need an industry partnership to secure the bid.
 
Sportech, the Liverpool-based pools company, recently established a horseracing arm with a US-based tote business.
 
The Reuben Brothers, who own Northern Racing and at least 24 percent of the seven-track racecourse group Arena Leisure, are committed to racing but have not yet had direct involvement in gambling.