This page contains a photograph which is one of several belonging to the photo gallery pages which are part of several pages relating to the invention of the world's first automatic totalizator in 1913 and Automatic Totalisators Limited, the company founded to develop, manufacture and export these systems.

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Public View of the World's First Automatic Totalisator

This image shows the front of the tote building housing the world's first automatic totalisator in Ellerslie, Auckland, New Zealand. This photo was taken in 1916, 3 years after this first automatic totalisator commenced operation. The writing on the cardboard mounting of this photograph reads PW015 Auckland Racing Club, New Zealand Paddock Enclosure - Leger Selling Houses and Indicators 1916

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This photograph is over a century old and was 100 years old in 2016--home to a real time multi user computing system over a century ago!

There is no Photographers details visible on this photograph. I have two copies of it and they are both glued to a cardboard backing so it is not possible to see if there is anything written there. If you know who owns the copyright for this photo please let me know and I will give credit to them. To contact me, click on the animated email icon at the bottom of this page.

This is the first enclosure installation at Ellerslie during this era. An Automatic Totalisators Limited document titled THE PREMIER (Julius) AUTOMATIC TOTALISATOR 1930, page 24 dated March 1927, which contains a list of installations, shows this first installation and another identified as Second enclosure in August 1918, two years after the photo above was taken.

There is an investment totals indicator in the centre of the building in the image above. The total investment on each runner is visible to the public through horizontal slot like windows in this indicator board. These are arranged in three rows of ten runner totals in the indicator, supporting up to thirty runners in a race. Above each of of the slot like windows is the runner number associated with the counter below. On top of the three rows of ten counters is the Pool Grand total counter below the words GRAND TOTAL below the apex of the central, high, front roof section. In the image after this one in the photo gallery, the grand total counter can be seen near the centre of that image, behind the wooden bannisters. To see the inside view of the Grand Total Counter, click on the image above and select the image icon following the image icon relating to the image above.

Below is an image of the totalisator mainframe that was installed at Ellerslie and operated behind the indicator, inside the tote house shown above. On the far right hand side of the image below, the counter wheels that provide the runner information in the slot like windows of the indicator in the image above can be seen. The first row of counter wheels in the image below, in groups of four digits for each runner, are quite prominent. They extend from the right hand edge of the image near the bottom, into the distance near the far wall, to the left of the window. The second row of counters can be seen below the first. In the full sized image of this mainframe, further down in the machinery, part of some of the counter wheels in the third row can be seen. A small arc of two of the third row wheels can be made out in this photograph if examined closely, in the vicinity of the bottom right corner of the image. A full sized version of the image below can be seen by selecting the fourth thumbnail after the one associated with the image above, after entering the photo gallery by clicking on the image above.

The first Automatic Totalisator for Ellerslie NZ An image of the Ellerslie machine

As the prime image at the top of this page is an external customer view of the world's first automatic totalisator, it is opportune to avoid technical matters and present some information about the events that led to this invention. Information on events that led to this invention is additionally pertinent here as this is the world's first automatic totalisator, the machine that changed the way the business of the totalisator was conducted. Following are some extracts from a company document titled THE PREMIER (JULIUS) AUTOMATIC TOTALISATOR published in 1930. Thanks to Mike Bell, an ex ATL (Automatic Totalisators Limited) Project Manager and Programmer for having sent me an electronic version of this document.

The company document mentioned has a low resolution copy of the prime image. It is labelled Fig. 2, first "Premier" Totalisator installed on the Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, N.Z., in 1913. Extracts from this document follow:

The principal of betting by means either of the Totalisator or the "Pari Mutuel" is that all money staked by backers is pooled, and when the result of the race is known, the amount (less some prearranged percentage deduction), is shared by those who have backed the winner. The earliest systematised process for effecting this arrangement was invented in 1872 by M.(sic) Oller in France, where it became known as the Pari Mutuel. The apparatus was simple and consisted of blocks of consecutively numbered tickets or vouchers, the tickets in each block bearing the race-card number of each horse running. These tickets were sold over a counter in various small buildings, and sales were stopped when the race started. Calculations from the number of tickets sold on each horse gave the resultant dividend, which was then paid out on presentation of winning tickets.

In theory, the Pari Mutuel sounds excellent; in practice it has many and serious defects. The public are, in general unable to form any idea as to the state of the betting, nor therefore of the dividend they may hope to receive, although on certain Continental racecourses efforts are made, by the selling of slips during the progress of the betting, to inform bettors of the approximate extent to which various competitors in the race have been backed. Obviously such information can only be approximate and is often quite inaccurate, and after the betting is closed an army of clerks is required to make the calculations necessary to determine the amount of the dividend, and these calculations on a big race, frequently delay the payment of the dividend to such an extent that the money invested on one race is not available for reinvestment on the race immediately following.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1880, the first application of mechanism to the Pari Mutuel system of betting was introduced, when a totalisator invented by Mr. Ekborg was brought into use. Improvements on this machine followed rapidly, and several more elaborate machines were subsequently used on racecourses in New Zealand and Australia. Most of these were of the manual type. In such equipment, information as to the progress of the sales of tickets on various horses, was conveyed per telephone, or otherwise, to operators stationed in the totalisator machine room, and these operators then moved certain indicators by hand, to record and display the information so obtained.

Obviously, with such a system, the information displayed to the public was much behind (in time) the actual progress of the betting, and it was not at all unusual for the numbers on the totalisator to be still moving, i.e., to be still recording tickets sold, after the finish of the race on which the bets had been made, and consequently after the winner was known, and it was apparent that manually controlled equipment was open to very grave fraud. To eliminate this risk, various authorities instituted regulations under which those in control of racing were prohibited from actually starting any race until the wheels of the totalisator had completed the record of sales of tickets upon the horses competing in that race.

In order to comply with these regulations, the totalisator was closed some minutes before the advertised starting time of the race, thus causing considerable annoyance to the public, and appreciable loss of revenue to the Race Club. Moreover, despite this early closing down on the betting, it still was frequently found necessary also to delay the start of the race, because records on the machine were not complete at the advertised starting time. As a result, when betting on a particular race had been unexpectedly heavy, it was not uncommon to see the horses delayed at the post for ten minutes and longer. Naturally this was very disturbing alike to owners, Jockeys and bettors, while the effect upon the chances of a high-spirited horse can be imagined.

To overcome these several disadvantages, attempts were made to perfect a machine which would automatically and instantaneously record and display the numbers of tickets sold on each horse, and also the aggregate number of tickets sold right throughout the progress of the betting. In 1912, Mr. (now Sir George) Julius invented a machine which fulfilled all these requirements, and the Premier Totalisator, as he named his invention, was first installed on the Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, New Zealand, in 1913. Since that date this machine has been installed on most of the leading racecourses in Australia, New Zealand, and in the East, and notably also at Longchamps, Paris where the largest totalisator in the world has been in successful use for the past two years...

Fancy Line

The text in this company document, that immediately follows the above text can be read in the Gloucester Park image page, which can be accessed by clicking on the image above then scrolling down the image directory to the heading Gloucester Park Trotting Track Western Australia and selecting the associated image thumbnail.

Additionally there are images of and information on Longchamps mentioned above which can be accessed by clicking on the image above then scrolling down the image directory to the heading starting with Longchamps Paris 1928 - and selecting the image thumbnails in that section.

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The next page is page three of five relating to the Ellerslie system.

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