The American Totalisator Company, formally known today as AmTote International (often referred to as AmTote), specializes in totalisator equipment used to control parimutuel betting at horse racing, greyhound racing, and jai-alai facilities.
The company was founded by Harry L. Straus, whose interest in a fairer system of calculating and displaying odds and payouts on parimutuel betting came after an incident in 1927 at a Maryland racetrack, when a horse listed at 12:1 odds won, but paid off at 4:1. Straus' new company installed its first equipment at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, which displayed odds and payouts on illuminated boards, now known as "tote boards". In 1933, American Totalisator installed its first electro-mechanical tote system at Arlington Park in Chicago, Illinois.
Since then, AmTote has installed more than 800 tote systems throughout the world. The original electro-mechanical devices have given way to fully computerized systems where bettors place and collect wagers at the same window, self-service betting terminals, Internet- and telephone-based wagering, and "hub" systems to facilitate simulcast wagering.
The "classic style" AmTote display consists of 24 bulbs; 6 high by 4 wide.
AmTote's numeric displays were often seen on television game shows in the 1950s and 1960s, most notably the original version of The Price is Right. The company was also an investor in the manufacturer of the original UNIVAC computer system.
The company is based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. It was once owned by General Instrument, later sold to a division of Motorola. Today, AmTote International is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Stronach Group, corporate parent of several race tracks, including Pimlico.
During World War II, American Totalisator Company converted a Cadillac showroom in Park Ridge, Illinois to a factory which employed local high school students to assemble electro-mechanical relays for the Government. The relays were used in weapon systems that were instrumental in the war effort.—Letter dated 8/20/1945 from Totalisator supplemented orally by recipient Hope Hallberg Crutcher