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LONDON-The Horserace Totalisator Board, better known as the Tote, is to take on the high street bookies head-to-head with ambitious plans to open another 130 betting shops, taking its nationwide chain to 500 branches, by 2004. Property consultant Lee Baron has been retained to search for and acquire the new outlets.

The Tote was established in 1928 by the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, to ensure that money from betting was put back into racing. Carl Whayman, Lee Baron’s chief executive, said: “The recent introduction of tax-free betting is set to transform the bookmaking industry and it has provided a spur to major expansion at the Tote.”

Key areas being targeted for expansion include Newcastle, Norwich, Portsmouth, Edinburgh and Leicester with an immediate requirement for 35 new branches

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