Betting on a Button

by | 08.15.2012 | 2:38pm

Late on Monday's Saratoga race card, a steward accidentally closed the betting on the ninth race with still two minutes to post. Carmine Donofrio, a racing board steward, claimed he saw another race on the TV screen, thought it was race 9 and pushed the button that closes all betting.

The natural reaction is to blame the steward, and while there doesn't appear to be another race late Monday during the same timeframe, who knew such a pivotal moment in every race was controlled by a person's ability to consistently push a button every 35-45 minutes? I certainly didn't.

Does this strike anyone else as a bit archaic? In my acting days, I took a gig as a stage manager who's primary duty after a show started performances was to “call the show”, essentially calling out light and sound cues to keep the tech crew together. There were around 100 cues for a 70-minute show meaning for the most part we were on our toes the entire time The cues we missed (I was far from a perfect stage manager) were the ones spaced out over 5-10 minutes, not the ones right on top of each other. If given enough time, people's minds tend to wander…or excessive drinking backstage is bad…one of the two.

I understand why this has likely been the process for years. While the technology has caught up to change this system, the racing industry has not seen its best days over the last decade and budgets are tight for any improvements. When money is invested in improvements, any racing company would want to vest those monies to improve the racing experience for fans and athletes.

But maybe we can ensure this type of integrity at a relatively low cost. Is there anything keeping a racetrack from installing a relay signal at the opening of the gates to the tote room that closes betting? While this isn't a common problem, it's likely the source of any past-post wagering issues that have come up over the years.

It's probably wrong to blame Donofrio. Human beings are prone to make mistakes, especially over long periods of time. A system that relies on the consistency of computers seems to make a lot more sense to me.

But what do I know? I couldn't even make it as the stage manager for a children's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

  • Memories of Puchi

    Brad, I am glad you brought this up. I didn’t even know it was still up to the “three blind mice”. Of course this is archaic. When we only raced live, it made sense. Now that we have 10, 12, and even more, tracks running, it makes one wonder why it hasn’t happened before. Is every racing association still empoying people power for this task?

  • August Song

    And what about in the cases like those of  Allemeuse? Any buttons or wiring to fix that?

  • Barbara

    The most interesting part of that story was, “…and while there doesn’t appear to be another race late Monday during the same timeframe,…”

  • Prairiegator

    As a former Placing Judge it was my duty to “hit the button” because the Stewards missed the start and didn’t stop wagering.  The very first race I was assigned to do this, a horse broke through the gate before the official start, but once I saw a gate open and a horse’s head, I hit the stop betting button.  It cost the track about 20 seconds worth of wagering, believe me, it does happen.  As simple as pushing a button sounds, as always, there is usually more to it than a headline makes it seem.  Lighten up, afterall, most gripes from the wagering public are about past-posting.

  •  If you think this is bad, generally the whole technology eco-system in racing needs an adjustment. From the tote system to data to racing office management, at best the technology is mid-90’s quality and when its weak its really weak. The industry talked about changing the tote system to the more more modern ATP protocol, but is still stuck with the 40 or 50 second cycles that plague bettors who wonder why their 5-2 horse clicks to 4-5 when he hits the stretch in front. All legitimate, but all because of a lack of technology investment.

    Of course, the ADW’s are another topic, but in reality they’re no better either.

    Racing like all legacy industries needs to look at a technology reboot and re-investment.

  • ManuelB

    If this is the way that tracks stop betting (by someone pushing a button) then all the usual assurances that betting stops when the race starts are empty and just for show. Either tracks install proper technology or racing commissions should demand that all betting stop before the gates open (regardless of how much money won’t come in). Once bettors get shut out a couple of times they’ll start betting before the race starts.

  • May Flower

     Racing is only good at one thing: grabbing enough of rope to hang itself.

  • stillriledup

     Lighten up? Some people wagering seriously, their lives and livelyhood depends on it, this is serious business.

  • Bob

    I remember  a day at the old Greenwood Racetrack in
    Toronto the lady that day (won’t give her name  )who was in charge for
    Agriculture Canada was talking on the grandstand line and was oblivious to the
    fact the race had the horses turned for home the tellers were going
    wild making bets on a horse that opened up by 3 lengths and coasted home. The
    button was finally pushed just  passed the
    sixteenth pole as I remember .I have a recurring dream that I am betting at the
    sixteenth pole  to this day….only a dream!!    just fun memories…EH

  • Coach23

    EXACTLY…. if this is true, the stew lieing about the true story is my issue…. last race on a monday??  Kinda unlikely there were 3 stews up there…..

  • Coach23

    the “if this is true” part references no other races going off at that time frame….

  • Prairiegator

    No one died.

  • Charlie Davis

    Nice attitude.  Nobody is saying that it’s the same as someone dying.  We’re saying that it shouldn’t be in the hands of an individual.  Individuals make mistakes which is why we should have an electronic system handling this stuff.

    And yes, it is a big deal.  It means that the pools are open until an individual pushes a button.  That means that there is a possibility for collusion as well as mistakes.

  • lets focus on the CHEATERS…PLEASE…

  • Rachel

    So you get the perfect program so that when the starter (a human pressing a button) starts the race and the gates open it automatically stops all betting…I guarantee you the computer program will have glitches and freezes and or crashes and some human will have to intervene.

    The human element is a neccessity and brings with it occasional human error, in this case, in the relevance of human error, it’s nothing like pilot error or doctor error.

    PS We all have to be “on our toes” while we’re at work.

  • Sal Carcia

    I believe the bank of TVs referred to are showing replays of racing from that track. I am not sure why this is done.

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