Calif. Totalizer Progress Draws Shapiro's Ire

Chairman Richard Shapiro of the California Horse Racing Board lashed out at the "obsolete" state of totalizer technology being used in the state during the commission's hearing at the Del Mar simulcast center July 21.

"I think there can be no argument that we are asking our customers to wager using obsolete equipment," he said.

Shapiro, who believes that one of racing's biggest problems is its inability to embrace technological advances to create "a fan friendly environment," implored Scientific Games Racing, the state's totalizer company, to move forward with better wagering technology. He was particularly unhappy that wireless equipment that allows patrons to place wagers from their seat or table from a touch-screen computer or hand-held device was not yet in use.

"We sat here in this same room one year ago and had this same discussion," he said. "I don't know why, a year later, we are not moving forward."

Terry McWilliams, vice president for sales for SG, disagreed with Shapiro's description of the firm's equipment. He said that problems with hardware have been solved and that the company's self-service terminals "stand head and shoulders above the competition." He said SG has been working with other vendors on the type of wagering devices Shapiro wants to see and plans to make improvements with tracks in both halves of the state.

Craig Fravel, executive vice president of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, reported such technology is ready for testing at his track and will be in use at the current meeting. He said there are about one dozen touch screen units in the VIP area of the turf club. In addition, there are 15 or so hand-held wagering devices available.

He said the touch screen units not only take wagers through individual accounts, but will also provide handicapping information and replays. Soon it will be possible to order food and beverages from one.

"Through the California Marketing Committee, we hope to move forward statewide if it proves successful here," Fravel said.

With Scientific Games current agreement nearing completion, Fravel said his industry "working group" is developing a request for proposal for bidding on the state's totalizer contract. He noted that a change in system would be at least nine months away.