Winning Bets Not Paid In Horse Racing After Tampa ‘Tote Delay’ On Road To Kentucky Derby

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Written By Dave Bontempo | Last Updated
tote delay

It was a fiasco-filled Saturday in which a wagering disruption, also known as a tote delay, affected several Florida tracks. It prevented late bets from being made before post-time, including a Road To The Kentucky Derby race at Tampa Bay Downs. The Tampa Bay Derby will go down as the payday that wasn’t for nationwide bettors.

But what is most infuriating for those who got their bets in before the tote delay took place, they are now suffering the same fate as those who had been shut out. They were told that the winning wagers they had gotten in before this tote delay were no bet, voided, and refunded.

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Tampa Bay Derby Betting Voided After Tote Delay

The track ruled that the $400,000 Kentucky Derby qualifier was a non-wagering event after the tote delay. All bets were canceled, wiping out the payday coming from Domestic Product running first, No More Time second, and Grand Mo the First third.

Players who had made early winning bets saw them listed as refunds. This affected numerous tickets, including readers who followed our pre-race forecast. The public at large had caught on to these horses, too, as they were viewed as the popular betting favorites.

The purse money was paid to ownership connections, and it is assumed the track will take a major financial blow on that race.

What Happened During the Tote Delay?

Gamblers took a different hit, a frustration in three acts.

One came from being unable to get their bets in during the final minutes before to post time. Track officials had pushed the race back more than half an hour to try and resolve the technical issue, to no avail.

Act Two was the uncertainty of the earlier-placed winning tickets on Saturday evening. It was announced nationwide that the outage affecting the race would result in a payout of tickets on Sunday. 

After all, this is pari-mutuel wagering, where odds are determined by what bets are in the pool after the track takes out its cut. So at the point of the tote delay, all potential payouts should have been known. This is not the same as a sportsbook taking on liability.

Some trackside attendees were under the impression the race had already been declared a non-wagering event. Others believed the free admission to Tampa Bay Downs for their “mystery voucher” on Sunday would result in a cashed ticket.

The third sting was an ironic misfortune. Some reports on Sunday listed erroneous and colossal payouts for the Tampa Bay Derby. The $1 trifecta paid $1,230. A closer look revealed the cruel irony that the Tampa Bay Derby’s winning trifecta combination, 5-7-9, were the exact same numbers as the Florida Oaks one race earlier. The major payout instead involved Waskesui, Style Points, and Dancing N Dixie.

What are the odds of that? You had the big payout. And then you didn’t.

Horse Racing Officials Release Statement

Tampa wasn’t the only track affected by the tote delay, but the only one to lose a big race. Tracks like Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita reported delays, not cancellations, in tote-board payouts. A joint statement by AmTote International and Roberts Communication tried to address the situation on Sunday.

Here is most of the statement:

“A communications network failure yesterday resulted in wagering disruptions at numerous racetracks and guest locations operating through the Mid-Atlantic hub of AmTote International. Most notably, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs had to be run without wagering.

The issues were not the result of a tote system failure. Rather, the communications network (both primary and backup) that connects the AmTote Mid-Atlantic hub to other wagering hubs failed. Roberts Communications Network (“RCN”) provides the communications network that connects AmTote’s Mid-Atlantic hub to all other tote company wagering hubs worldwide. RCN designs and installs the communications network in a manner designed to prevent outages of this type. 

However, the unprecedented nature of the connectivity outage yesterday, which impacted the third-party providers from which RCN provisions bandwidth, took down both the primary and back-up networks.

Everyone needs to stop blaming AmTote,’ said Todd Roberts, President and CEO of RCN. ‘This was an unprecedented failure in the primary and back-up connectivity provided to RCN by our third-party suppliers.

When the communications links at AmTote’s hub were disrupted, it caused a breakdown in the flow of wagering data between AmTote’s Mid-Atlantic hub and all other wagering locations, the statement continues.” The communications disruption was not caused by any failure in RCN equipment or operations. Rather, both the primary and back-up bandwidth providers to the RCN network failed. RCN has not yet received an official reason-for-outage report from its third-party providers specifying a reason for this failure. However, it is believed that the outage, which was much broader than just the racing industry, affected at least three major telecom/internet bandwidth providers in the geographic region that services the AmTote hub.”

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Time for Race Books to Step Up

I deliberately make light bets in the neighborhood of $10 to $20 in the races I handicap for to maintain professional context. For situations just like this. If there is post-race criticism, that sounds better not to come from a $100 or $1,000 bettor.

I only had $10 on Maximum Security the day I believe he was wrongly disqualified from the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Imagine what the guy who lost a couple grand after wheeling him would have written.

In full disclosure, I had a few bucks on a Domestic Product win ticket, along with the exacta and the trifecta. But I deliberately remain a small player and have real empathy for those who played this big.

There are many who placed far larger wagers on these combos, and they are the people operators need to worry about. A player who banged the exacta with a $50 box, for example, would have lost $500 had that exacta paid $20.

Frustrating high-volume players like this, especially those who had placed winning bets before the tote delay, will produce lost revenue via bets not made in the short term at least.

It’s time for books to step up and offer incentives to those players. Online operators should at least offer a $25 free wager here and free past performances, maybe more. 

Horse racing already suffers from high takeout percentages that make other forms of gambling more attractive. The gamblers already feel like they come last behind the horsemen and officials in this sport.

Assuaging them after a bad beat via tote delay despite placing winning bets would not only be smart, but it could also be a public-relations coup.

Good Karma is always good business.