Tote Companies Discuss Delays in Getting Final Odds

Delays in the length of time it takes to get final odds posted on a race in progress--a vexing technological problem in the simulcasting age of racing--can be improved, but aren't going away any time soon, a panel of tote company representatives told the International Simulcasting Conference on Sept. 30.

Bettors complain about the sometimes huge fluctuation in odds after a race has begun, noted James Quinn, who represents a players' group for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. He said it often takes a minute or more for final odds to display.

Quinn, who was part of the panel put together for the Burlingame, Calif., discussion, called it an "insidious problem that contributes to the widespread perception of mischief, that these changes are the result of past posting (betting after the race has started)." While most serious players don't believe past posting is taking place, he said, they remain upset "by losing significant value" with dropping odds on their wagers.

"What's taking so long to solve these problems?" he asked. "I think we would settle for a 30-second delay. But when I've asked track management about it, they say it's not possible. Fans are impatient about it and are relatively unsympathetic to the reasons why and how much it costs."

Louis Skelton, director of technical services for Scientific Games Racing, said that the tote companies are working together to improve the merging of pools that could reduce the period of time it takes to get the final win, place and show data to the host track to less than 30 seconds after the close of betting. Two signficant hurdles stand in the way -- "double hop" simulcasting venues and cancellation delays built into most on-track wagering systems, several panel members said.

Double hops, they explained, exist in many geographic areas due to regulatory restrictions requiring simulcast wagers to flow to another jurisdiction after the close of wagering before being merged with the host track. That can add as much as 30 seconds to the process of finalizing odds, explained Keith Johnson, vice president of marketing and technical sales for AmTote International. Most major hosts have at least one double hop in their system and many have more, he said.

By changing the protocol so double-hop simulcasters, or "guests," prioritize win, place and show data, "we can cut 30 seconds right off" the time it takes to finalize win-only odds, Johnson said.

United Tote Company's John Carey called on tracks to get rid of cancellation policies. Most have a delay in finalizing their pools of at least four seconds to permit pari-mutuel clerks to cancel tickets bettors don't want, usually due to last-second errors.

"This is not a transmission delay," Carey said. "This is a sit-on-your-thumbs delay. One that has a consequence."

Carey said the totes begin collecting data within two to three seconds of the close of betting or following the cancellation delay. He said that "under a perfect scenario" where there are no double hops, all secondary guests respond siumultaneously and there are no communication problems, "all of this happens within 20 seconds."