'Hot Walkers' Machines, Agents Turn Symposium Heads

Self-service wagering terminals tied to young women known as "hotwalkers" are being marketed by Futuristic Technologies, a company headed by Andy Stronach. The "Hot Walkers" concept has generated much talk and looks at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing, where the company has rolled out the machines, complete with the human touch.

The betting devices have video screens that resemble slot machines, but they are linked to pari-mutuel pools. One type contains detailed handicapping information developed by Stronach, an avid racing fan who said he wants to make wagering easier for the public. A user can pick his or her own horses, or use a quick-pick function that spits out tickets using the handicapping information. Other machines simply issue a quick-pick ticket at random.

Stronach didn't say when the machines may be installed at a betting outlet, or whether industry participants are ready to sign on. He did say the sport must do something to give "the little guy" a chance, and he sees the "Hot Walkers" devices as a means to that end.

"You can't stop technology," Stronach said. "I want to give that to the regular fan. The other (bettors) are too sophisticated."

Stronach said he has devised a database that can simulate the way a race will unfold and project speed ratings. He said the ratings are consistently off by only less than a length, which gives patrons an indication of horses that will hit the board. The machines also allow for "odds shopping" based on the information.

Each of the machines is named for a hotwalker -- "Magical Monika, "Dynamite Dionne," and "Sassy Sabrina" for example -- complete with their pictures. There also is a telephone number patrons can call to get live race calls, tips from the hotwalkers, or to make wagers through other account-wagering systems.

Stronach said the company would provide the hotwalkers to go with the machines and perhaps talk patrons through the paces and provide handicapping information. He called them "marketing agents."

"None of these girls are (mutuel) tellers," he said. "Tellers can't tout horses. What we're doing is creating a marketing force, and it's a marketing force racing doesn't have."

Some of the hotwalkers spent the first few days of the symposium mingling with attendees and manning the Futuristic Technologies booth. To say they generated a buzz would be an understatement.

The concept has been floated by Stronach for at least a year. When he applied for a license for a racetrack in central Michigan last year, he intended to use the "Hot Walkers" theme for betting parlors.

Other Futuristic officials noted the self-service betting machines are strictly pari-mutuel in nature even though they may have the look of slot machines. All wagers would be transmitted into pools at the respective racetracks.