This remarkable story is embedded deep in the foundations of the building that has been lovingly transformed into TOTE Bar & Dining.
A story about a brilliant Australian inventor called George Julius and his stupendous contraption.
A contraption that revolutionised racing worldwide and is now recognised as one of the world’s first computers.
When an aspiring engineer and Archbishop’s son invented a vote-counting machine so accurate it scared the politicians, he thought he was on a winner. He was, but not in the way anyone expected.
A chance visit to the races convinced young George Julius he could put his gigantic metal calculator to other uses, eliminate betting fraud and cater to the huge popularity of the sport.
And by George, the scale of his endeavour was extraordinary.
The machine itself was the size of several houses and composed of a finely tuned steel orchestra of gears, chains, levers, and weights.
In the digital age, it may look preposterous, but the ‘Julius Apparatus’ or totalisator machine was an instant hit. Over the next fifty years, it would become a staple of racecourses around the world – from Longchamp to Royal Ascot.
In Victoria, the first machine was installed at Moonee Valley in the midst of the Great Depression, where it became known simply as the TOTE.
And George? Well, he became head of the CSIRO and was awarded a knighthood.
"With its automatic odds machine, the Julius Apparatus is the earliest online, real-time, data processing and computation system that the curators as the London Science Museum have identified."
New Scientist Magazine.
The Sporting Globe, Saturday 15 August 1931.
"Moonee Valley paddock will be one of the most charming spots to be found on any Australian racecourse. The new totalisator house also adds greatly to the convenience and comfort of its patrons, and, as is always the case at Moonee Valley, the improvements there are real and practical."
The Argus, 29 October 1938
Sharing the Spoils
The windfalls of introducing George’s machines to racecourses were not to be shared by the lucky punter and Racing Clubs alone.
As a condition of installation, a percentage of all bets placed through the Tote was siphoned off by Government for investment in public interests.
And as the impacts of the Great Depression lingered and another world war loomed, these community dividends were vital. In 1938/39, this delivered an astonishing figure of nearly 200,000 pounds from Tote dividends to Victorian hospitals and charities.
"One-tenth of the money invested in totalisator is deducted before the declaration of dividend. Half the amount so retained is handed over to the Government, and the balance goes to the individual club, which has to bear the expense of totalisator working. What is recieved by the Government is earmarked for charities, plus a £ for £ subsidy."
The Argus, August 1931