Some bettors across the country nearly got shut out of the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) when AmTote International’s multi-jurisdictional wagering hub in Portland, Ore., locked up twice within 50 minutes of the Derby’s post time. The outage affected the advanced deposit wagering platforms TwinsSpires.com and XpressBet, in addition to Arlington Park and Fair Grounds Race Course.
"There was a critical component that locked up, a small component but it talks to everything," said Steve Keech, president of AmTote. "The activity was not related to wagering, it was related to accounts, like looking up an account balance. When this component gets overloaded and it tells the rest of the system it can’t function, then the system is designed to stop and protect the integrity of the wagering."
A couple of executives for affected ADWs said it’s hard to estimate how much Kentucky Derby handle was lost during the 22 minutes customers could not place wagers. Despite the system lock-up, the all-sources handle for the Derby improved 7.8% to $112.7 million compared with $104.6 million last year, according to Churchill Downs.
Keech said the wagering hub had been load-tested prior to the Kentucky Derby weekend and no problems were discovered.
"I think where AmTote and the whole industry can improve is to do a better job testing for big days," he said. "It is so tough to test that big day because that is when things get fragile. I want to stress it wasn’t the wagering volume, we know how to handle that. Was it the creation of new accounts and funding of those accounts? We’re not sure."
Keech said a remedy has been identified and will be implemented no later than May 4 that will allow the wagering systems to continue running even when the customer account activity, balance look up, or deposits to accounts gets locked up.
AmTote is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., which also owns XpressBet, Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, the Maryland Jockey Club (owner of Pimlico and Laurel Park), and Portland Meadows. MEC filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2009. As part of its reorganization it was announced April 30 that AmTote and the racetracks will be transferred to Ontario-based MI Developments (MID). Frank Stronach is chairman of both MEC and MID.