AmTote’s Backup Power Systems Avert Potential Disaster On Breeders’ Cup Friday

As the totalisator system for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club – host of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Championships – AmTote International seamlessly processed more than 5.6 million individual transactions on a day when $52,273,883 was wagered on a 10-race card.

The day, however, could have been a disaster were it not for a multi-tiered backup power system AmTote has in place. A commercial transformer fire on a pole roughly 100 yards from AmTote’s headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md., knocked out a Baltimore Gas & Electric power grid at about 11:30 a.m. PT – just as the 10-race Breeders’ Cup card was getting under way. The power outage lasted six hours. Cause of the fire wasn’t known.

AmTote has two contingency plans in place for just this kind of situation.

First, as happened on Friday, when a power outage occurs, all systems automatically switch to short-term battery power. Long-term batteries are also in place, along with two generators – one fueled by diesel fuel and one by natural gas, the latter of which can run perpetually.

The betting system – which handles roughly 80 percent of North America’s pari-mutuel wagers, including racetracks, off-track betting and advance deposit wagering companies – didn’t miss a beat, said Keith Johnson, AmTote’s president.

“No one in the country even knew it happened,” Johnson said.

AmTote president Keith Johnson

The second contingency plan, in the event the AmTote headquarters becomes inoperable, is to shift everything to redundant operation centers in Kentucky and Oregon that are fully staffed as part of the company’s disaster recovery plan. AmTote didn’t have to take that step.

“We test this backup system monthly,” Johnson added. “These are the kind of days you prepare for. You put all the backups in place. But of all days for something like this to happen, it had to be Breeders’ Cup day.”

As of Saturday night, the burned out commercial transformer was switched out and power was fully restored.

Johnson said weather events normally are the cause of power outages, but he remembers a power failure at Gulfstream Park in 1999 on the Friday before the Breeders’ Cup, when the championships were a one-day event. “There was an airplane flying overhead pulling a a promotional banner,” Johnson recalled. “The banner somehow fell off and landed on power lines going into the track, knocking out the power.”

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