Tote Company Leaders Discuss Current and Future Issues

With executives from the three largest North American tote companies sitting before them, some attendees in a panel discussion at the 33rd Racing & Gaming Symposium Dec. 6 wondered why the trio of bet-processors couldn't work together better for the convenience of the consumer.

That directive was just one of several topics discussed in "Modern Day & Future Tote Issues," a two-part morning meeting held at the Westin-La Poloma Resort in Tucson, Ariz. The panel discussion also included leaders from international tote companies.

One audience member wondered what is being done in regards to portability of customer accounts between the companies, so that there is some cohesiveness in platforms at various racetracks, off-track betting parlors or through Internet services.

"I think that solving that problem is really critical," the questioner said.

But Steve Keech, president of AmTote, said any perceived challenge isn't a technical issue, or a competitive one for that matter.

"We do a pretty good job of sharing now – we are ready from a technology side," said Keech, who shared the dais with David Haslett, vice president of operations for Scientific Games Racing; and Jeff True, president of United Tote. "Outside the tote system, it's going to come down to regulations."

The executives shared with the audience separate but often common goals for advancement of wagering initiatives, including the channeling of exploding technology into more avenues for bettors.

"We believe strongly in investments in technology and services to enable operators to develop their business – with the emphasis on enable," said Haslett. "This includes traditional outlets, Internet, mobile gaming, PoS (point of sale) devices, and integration for third-party use."

In the midst of all the technology talk that seemingly would allow the facilitation of a bet from just about anywhere, came a lone plea from an obvious racetrack fan.

"Please don't forget that this is a spectator sport," he said.

True nodded his head in agreement from the panel table.

"We'd all like to see full racetracks," he said. "We don't want to take away any customers from the racetrack. But we three companies can't wait for that customer to come."

Toward the end of the discussion, moderator John Walzak of the Ontario Harness Horse Association also asked a simple question, this time about the implementation of Wagering Transmission Protocol.

WTP is an industry-driven communication platform designed for tote transactions, efficiencies, and related security. In addition to racing groups, all North American tote companies collaborated in the development of the first version, which was completed in August.

"WTP is good, one of the key issues is that it is an industry standard," said Louis Skelton, vice president of technical services and development for Scientific Games. "But I think that internationally, everyone needs to understand what is involved. We as an industry need to get our communication out on this internationally. So to all of you leaders of the industry that are here, spread the message of WTP."

Some of the international groups are already on the WTP bandwagon.

"We support the WTP process," said Aymeric Verlet, international development director for the French tote company Pari-Mutuel Urbain. "But bet type rules differ from country to country, even when they appear similar."

And then came mention of the symposium's two buzz words –- security and integrity. The demands have been preached again and again since the days of the Pick-6 scandal in the 2002 Breeders' Cup.

"Everyone here believes that integrity and security are paramount," said True. "But we have to do more than just throw out mandates. You have to back that up with investment in technology."