Magna Introduces 'Betty' to XpressBet Customers

by Jack Shinar

She could be every horseplayer's dream girl.

If you can't find the right words to express your desire, ask her for help. She'll tell you what it is you are trying to say.

If you stammer or make a mistake and say the wrong thing, she's not offended. Tell her, "Start again." All is forgiven.

And when there's nothing left to say, just tell her, "That's all." She understands.

She's XpressBet Betty, the English-only voice recognition system that is the latest innovation in home account-wagering technology from Magna Entertainment Corp. It allows phone bettors to place wagers by simply speaking, and works without need of a live operator.

MEC just sent out 20,000 brochures to advance deposit wagering customers announcing Betty's availability. XpressBet president Ron Luniewski believes once they become accustomed to using Betty, whose likeness in the brochure is strikingly similar to those of cartoon characters Jane and Judy Jetson, her phone number is going to become a popular one.

"The natural language recognition system was developed in Australia by the South Wales TAB," Luniewski said. "It has handled 10 million wagers there and taken as many as 150,000 calls on a single major race day. We're excited about it."

He said the system has been undergoing testing with 8,000 customers in Pennsylvania for the past several months.

"It has significant advantages" over live operators or touch-dial methods, Luniewski said. "It doesn't prompt you. So long as you tell it everything you need to (track, race number, amount, and type of wager) it will handle it. It's much quicker. You don't have to wait for the right number to punch in for the track you want to bet on. If you leave something out, it will let you know. It takes a couple of times to get comfortable."

Betty updates account information at the beginning and conclusion of each call. In the near future, it will be able to provide live odds, race results, and other racing information, Luniewski said.

XpressBet will retain its live operator and touch-dial connections for phone bettors that prefer those methods. And the Web siteremains the most popular method of advance deposit wagering.

"This could be for the bettor who is out on a Saturday afternoon, isn't near his computer, and only has a second to make a bet," Luniewski said.