Laurel Race Course and the Pimlico Race Course simulcast outlet reopen today after nearly a week of non-stop work to install and test a new pari-mutuel system.
"It's been worse than getting ready for the Preakness," track general manager Jim Mango said.
But, he added: "We did what we had to do, and we're all set now to start taking bets."
The tracks will have 215 tellers on duty today -- "about 1 1/2 times the normal amount," Mango said, to make the transition go smoother for fans and employees. "We are going to stay overstaffed for as long as we need to during this period of adjustment."
As soon as the last race was over on Sunday, workers started tearing out the old TIM 300 mutuel machines from about 1,200 windows and replaced them with the new Spectrum 2000 terminals.
The equipment was designed by AmTote International Inc., a Hunt Valley company that has been providing Maryland tracks with totalizator apparatus for about 60 years.
The system is necessary so that the Maryland tracks can start taking bets on full-card, out-of-state simulcasts from tracks such as Santa Anita, Gulfstream and Oaklawn once pertinent legislation has been passed by the Maryland General Assembly.
The system also will allow a cross-cash network between proposed OTB parlors in the state and all thoroughbred and harness tracks.
In addition to installing the terminals, new electrical and telephone lines were put in, the computer hardware and software equipment repeatedly tested and about 350 mutuel employees received training on the new keyboards.
"We had a game plan, and we followed it," said Liz Quill, pari-mutuel manager at Laurel-Pimlico. "Other tracks have converted to this system, but we have done more than any of them in terms of orientation of our employees and in checking the equipment."
Technicians worked through early today testing the system with simulcast outlets in New Jersey and Nevada.
In the back of everyone's minds is the Dec. 26 experience at Santa Anita. The California track changed totalizator companies (from AmTote to AutoTote) in a similar four-day time frame.
There were massive equipment failures on the track's opening card. Disgruntled fans, who couldn't get their bets down, left the track. Santa Anita officials estimated the track lost about $3 million, or about a third of the opening-day handle.
"We've done all we can do to prevent that type of occurrence," Mango said. "Now, it's up to AmTote personnel and equipment."