California Pari-Mutuel Clerks' Rep Outlines Tote Problems

Pari-mutuel clerks in California said they are experiencing numerous problems with the state's tote system machinery and are concerned with the racing board's consideration of eliminating a four-second cancellation delay that gives them a last-gasp chance to correct a mistake.

Richard Castro, president of the guild that represents the clerks, told the California Horse Racing Board's pari-mutuel operations committee Feb.16 that Scientific Games Racing is not keeping its machinery in good working condition.

"We expect the equipment we use to work 100% of the time," Castro said during the meeting in Arcadia. "There has been some improvement (in the past year). But we're convinced that it has been because the clerks are learning better how to protect themselves."

Among the problems he listed from a recent survey of clerks were ticket repeats due to stuck keys, lost tickets, cutter problems, print failures, system crashes, misread bet cards, system slow-downs, tighter paper curls that cause jams, and dirty tote machines and key boards. He suggested SGR has cut back on maintenance.

Dave Payton, western representative for the tote company, denied that was a factor, but conceded improvement is needed.

"There is no problem with the financial status of Scientific Games," he assured the committee. "We're doing quite well."

Payton said he thought that problems may have more to do with the company concentrating more on its foray into various state lottery businesses and the aging of the tote machinery.

"The protective measures, the daily maintenance, that we're doing may not be enough," he said.

He denied a suggestion that paper quality is an issue.

"We've had different paper vendors, but the paper is the same with all 15,000 locations we service around the nation," Payton said. "It's more of a terminal issue."

Castro cited a few examples from the survey of problems that resulted in clerks having to pay for errors that were not their fault. He said the problems extend beyond the racetracks to satellite wagering locations as well. But Castro credited the CHRB for identifying the issues and suggesting ways to solve them.

He warned, though, that it could become a contractual issue.

"What I'm demanding, and I hope you agree, is that we need to get these problems fixed," Castro said.

"We're especially upset to hear that the working clerks may lose in the future the protection of the four-second delay for the purpose of canceling any ticket punched in error."

Earlier in the meeting, James Quinn, representing the NTRA Players Panel, and Magna Entertainment's Ron Charles, the president of the company's California racing operation, strongly urged getting rid of the four-second delay in order to help speed up the merging of pools and cut down on the late changing of odds during the running of races.

The committee agreed to move the matter along to the full CHRB commission, along with a couple of other recommendations from the panel.

The committee also supported a recommendation to allow a "no-contest" designation in multi-race wagers like the Pick Six or Pick Four for races that undergo a surface switch due to bad weather. That, too, will be considered by the full board.