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Racing News

Published Mar 14, 2024
by Mike Henry

The tote shutdown following Saturday’s 10th race at Tampa Bay Downs, the Grade III Florida Oaks, occurred because of a communications outage between AmTote International and Roberts Communication Network (RCN), according to officials with both companies.

AmTote, which is owned by 1/ST Racing, is a technology and services provider to numerous tracks, while RCN provides the communication link between AmTote and the racetracks.

1/ST Racing president Aidan Butler said that while AmTote remained operative late Saturday afternoon, both the primary and secondary links to the affected tracks went down. The crash led to wagering disruptions at numerous tracks and guest locations (simulcast facilities) through AmTote’s mid-Atlantic hub, which includes Tampa Bay Downs.

Service was returned to normal Sunday. An investigation is ongoing.

The outage led to a half-hour delay before the 11th race, the Grade III Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, and resulted in it being declared a non-wagering race. The scheduled 12th and final race, an allowance for fillies and mares, was cancelled by Tampa Bay Downs track management due to approaching darkness.

“The loss of our tote system resulted from circumstances entirely out of our control,” said Peter Berube, the Oldsmar oval’s Vice President & General Manager. “During the delay, we remained hopeful that service could be restored, and the horses for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby were taken to the paddock to prepare to go on the racetrack.

“As the delay grew in length, the skies turned overcast, leading to concerns about running the 12th race in near-darkness. For the safety of those horses and jockeys, we knew the only prudent decision was to cancel the race.”

Berube said the conditions surrounding the delay of the track’s showcase race and the subsequent race cancellation were unprecedented in his experience.

“Customer satisfaction and trust are at the foundation of our business, and anything that erodes that needs to be addressed,” Berube said. “We knew Saturday that most of our patrons were totally unaware of the circumstances that led to our decisions – they wanted to know why they couldn’t cash their tickets from the 10th and why they couldn’t bet on the last two races.

“The situation was surreal, to say the least, and for it to happen on our biggest racing day of the meet was nightmarish. Fortunately, we had a fair and exciting running of the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, producing a deserving winner in Domestic Product.”

Many bettors have questioned why winning tickets purchased earlier Saturday on the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby could not be cashed by establishing pools based on monies already wagered, rather than having their wagers refunded. Berube replied that despite the early wagering that went on, the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby did not have anywhere near a full set of mutuel pools and wagers. Further, patrons could not wager on the race after the Florida Oaks had been run, nor could they cancel wagers made earlier.

“Basically, the integrity of those pools would have been nonexistent,” he said.

With hundreds of sites not being able to transmit wagers, calculate and receive updated odds information or stop betting, the decision to issue refunds on those wagers already made was deemed fairest for all involved.

“When the shutdown took place, the pools for the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby became compromised,” Berube said. “We sympathize with those bettors who would have won, but it’s conceivable the payoffs based on much-reduced pools could have caused bad feelings, also.”

He added that the decision to pay off on multi-race wagers, such as Pick 3s, Pick 4s and Daily Doubles, by stipulating “ALL” winners of the 11th and 12th races was made in accordance with Florida parimutuel statutes, which are similar to nationwide standard rules whereby “no contest” or “no race” designations dictate awarding “ALL” runners as the “winners” for such legs.

Berube said he hopes transparency in dealing with the questions posed by Saturday’s incredible events will placate the majority of patrons who may have left Tampa Bay Downs with a sour taste in their mouths. Even though the track was not responsible for the tote shutdown, he will continue to push officials to determine the cause.

“For us as a racetrack, the timing could not have been any worse,” he said. “But we want our customers to know we value their business and their input, and we plan to work even harder to satisfy them moving forward.”


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