In the fall of 1927 an angry crowd left a small Maryland race track, disgruntled at the day's events. Among the group was a young engineer named Harry Straus. Like others, he'd bet heavily on a long shot in the last race, with posted odds of 12 to 1. Although the horse came in first, the payoff was a mere 4 to 1. For many, it was a typical day in the roaring twenties – a decade of rampant corruption, unscrupulous gambling operations and quintessential greed. Against this unseemly backdrop, Straus knew he would do something to restore honor to the Sport of Kings.
Six years later, Straus and a dedicated band of engineers who had formed American Totalisator Company (AmTote) ushered in the era of honest, reliable racing by installing the first electromechanical totalisator system in the United States. That first Tote at Arlington Park brought speed, accuracy and credibility to the racing industry. Public confidence soared and the stage was set for more than a half century of AmTote service and innovation.
Through a steady evolution of products and services, AmTote has kept pace with the world and now sustains every segment of the industry. AmTote created the first automated totalisator system, the first cash/sell terminal, the first regional hub system and the first Windows based tote system, and continues into the future with wireless terminals, voice betting, Internet betting and Instant Racing. AmTote now has over 90 customers worldwide and over 300 employees in the U.S., Canada and Australia. It's no coincidence that, from a young engineer's drive to restore integrity to the racing industry to today's innovations in technology and communications, AmTote has become the premier supplier of pari-mutuel systems and services in the world.
AmTote Founder Harry Straus
Harry Staus with Arthur J. "Johnny" Johnson (right), Harry's Chief Engineer and General Manager.
In 1933, Arlington Park installed the first complete totalisator system developed by Harry Straus's company, consisting of ticket issuing machines, bet-registering equipment, and indicator boards. It required 350 miles of wire to connect mutual machines with the infield tote board.