01/07/2015 4:52PM

AmTote wins California bet-processing contract

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AmTote, the bet-processing company owned by the privately held Stronach Group, has won a bid to take over all wagering services in the state of California from rival Sportech, according to officials, with the changeover set for sometime this fall.

AmTote was selected by the state’s two racing-industry-owned corporations, SCOTWINC and NOTWINC, for the contract in late December, according to Jeff True, the senior vice president of sales for AmTote. The contract will allow AmTote to provide bet-processing services at all California racetracks and offtrack betting locations, totaling approximately 40 sites. By handle, it is the largest bet-processing contract in the U.S.

Sportech, previously known as Scientific Games Racing (which was formerly known as Autotote), has provided bet-processing services for California since 1992. The previous contract had been renewed several times since 2006 on a short-term basis.

Two of California’s racetracks, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, are owned by AmTote’s parent company, the Stronach Group, which is controlled by owner-breeder Frank Stronach. The publicly held predecessor of the Stronach Group, Magna Entertainment, purchased AmTote in 2006.

With the agreement, AmTote will become the dominant bet-processing company in the U.S. The company took over bet-processing duties for the New York Racing Association in 2013, and it also controls bet-processing services for most of the tracks in Florida and a smattering of sites in the East, among other locations. 

True said the project will require AmTote to rewire all of the betting locations in California and install new terminals at the sites. The company is anticipating installing 3,000 newly built terminals.

“As you can imagine, it’s a pretty big installation,” True said.

True said a date has not yet been established for the changeover, but that the company is eyeing dates at the start or end of race meets in the fall to minimize disruptions. One of those dates is Oct. 29, when the fall meet at Del Mar is scheduled to start.

That date poses some problems, however, as the Del Mar opening is one day prior to the first day of the two-day Breeders’ Cup event, scheduled for Keeneland in Kentucky on Oct. 30-31. True said that “opening on Breeders’ Cup weekend is not something anyone wants to do” because of the possibility of snafus.

“Having said that, we candidly are not worried about it,” True said. “We have done big transitions before,” such as NYRA.

For California racing fans, the transition will mean learning a new interface on self-service terminals. True said that AmTote will employ on-site staffers to help racetrack patrons get used to the new machines at the time of the changeover, a tactic the company used in New York when it took over the NYRA business in September 2013.

“After three or four days, most of those folks were standing around doing nothing,” True said. “Customers got accustomed to it very quickly.”