Magna Broadens Its Base With Piece of AmTote

Less than a week after the National Thoroughbred Racing Association released a report that recommended upgrades in wagering technology and a streamlining of tote systems in the United States, Magna Entertainment Corp. acquired a 30% equity and voting interest in AmTote International for $3.82 million.

The remaining 70% of AmTote will continue to be held by John Corckran, Jr., James Corckran II, and their family and associates. MEC said it could increase its investment in AmTote in the future.

AmTote is a leading provider of totalisator services in North America. It has service contracts with more than 70 racetracks and other wagering entities, including seven racetracks owned, operated, or managed by MEC.

The other major tote companies are Autotote, United Tote, and the Las Vegas Dissemination Co. Racetracks and wagering outlets usually contract with tote companies, but MEC is the first racetrack company to own a major piece of one.

"The future success of companies in our industry will be increasingly dependent on introducing and adapting new technology," MEC president Jim McAlpine said in a prepared statement. "AmTote has a history of developing innovative products for the totalisator industry. We believe that our investment in AmTote is further evidence of our position as the leader among track owners who have chosen to directly invest in important technology initiatives in support of their racetrack operations.

"By combining our expertise as racetrack operators with AmTote's knowledge of systems and hardware, AmTote will be able to develop new, more user-friendly systems that will allow MEC and AmTote's other existing and future customers to grow and prosper."

AmTote president John Corckran said the company, over the past seven years, has invested more than $10 million in software development. He also said the tote system is "state-of-the-art and secure."

"We expect that partnering with MEC, the largest owner and operator of horse racetracks in North America, will enable us to develop a wealth of new ideas for the entire pari-mutuel industry," Corckran said.

The status report on the pari-mutuel system, officially released Aug. 17 at The Jockey Club Round Table, recommended creation of a National Office of Wagering Security, minimum uniform security standards for all entities in the pari-mutuel system, and industry action plan to upgrade infrastructure. Officials hinted at a possible push toward a centralized tote system, but the emphasis apparently will be on improving tote-to-tote communications.

One official noted MEC is a strong proponent of upgrading wagering technology, and that its involvement with a tote company could be viewed as a positive development given its support of the report released Aug. 17 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The MEC-AmTote deal has other implications as well. AmTote is a partner in RaceTech, the company that developed and launched Instant Racing, a sort of pari-mutuel video lottery terminal that's now in use at wagering facilities in three states. Instant Racing has been particularly success in Arkansas at Oaklawn Park, a RaceTech partner, and Southland Greyhound Park.