Historical Significance or Value
The Hokitika Totalisator is historically significant as a reflection of an earlier era of racing when betting was limited to on-course facilities, requiring the construction of permanent structures to accommodate and manage the handling of bets. The building reflects the early affluence of the Westland Racing Club through totalisator income. Investment in totalisator facilities provided racing clubs with an important stream of revenue that enabled expenditure on racecourse improvements.
The adaptation of the Totalisator Building for advances in totalisator technology reflects developments in the gaming industry, and the continued use of the building throughout these changes signals its importance to the Westland Racing Club and West Coast racing community. The Totalisator Building remains operational for the WRC's annual midsummer meeting, as part of the West Coast summer racing circuit.
Architectural Significance or Value
The Hokitika Totalisator Building possesses architectural significance as a building designed for a specific use and in the architectural solution for the problem of overcrowding at the totalisator teller windows. Modifications to the structure of the building to house changes in the totalisator machines reflect developments in totalisator technology and the gaming industry. The building is a rare surviving example of a polygonal totalisator house in New Zealand.
Social Significance or Value
Horse racing and gambling were important leisure activities in New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Following government legislation, racing club totalisators became legalised centres for gambling. Totalisators formed the focal point of on-course betting and were central to the social ritual of a day at the races. The Totalisator Building at Hokitika is important for its historical association with these activities, and in its continued adaptation and use throughout changes in the gaming and racing industries.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The retention of the Totalisator Building throughout changes to totalisator technology reflects the historical and ongoing importance of racing to Hokitika and the West Coast in general. Government legislation vested authority in racing clubs to oversee gambling activities which in turn guaranteed funds for racecourse improvements. Later changes to racing and gaming regulations are reflected in changes to the Totalisator Building, such as the expansion of the northern and western sides to accommodate a larger totalisator and increased teller windows, following the centralisation of gambling authority in the TAB, established 1950.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The Hokitika 'Tote' is held in high esteem by some members of the Hokitika community and possesses relatively high community association. The Westland Racing Club are keen to have the Totalisator professionally conserved and have instigated steps to achieve this.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
The Hokitika Totalisator is rare as an example of a polygonal totalisator house, the design of which reduced crowding at the teller windows. Although once relatively common in New Zealand, no other examples of polygonal totalisators are currently known to exist. There is only one example of a totalisator building on the NZHPT Register of Historic Places, Historic Places, Wahi Tapu and Wahi Tapu Areas: Makaraka Racecourse Totalisator Building, Makaraka (Record no. 3522).
(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape
The Hokitika Totalisator is historically associated with the Westland Racing Club's race meetings. The Totalisator Building was first used for the Jubilee Cup Day, marking the Westland Goldfields Jubilee in January 1914. The Totalisator Building is situated among more recent buildings and structures on the Hokitika racecourse including the grandstand, tearooms and stables. The Totalisator Building was built as part of major improvements to the racecourse in 1913 and is the only building in this complex to have survived. It remains an important fixture of the Hokitika Racecourse and is used on the Westland Racing Club's annual summer meeting.
Racing and gambling were very important leisure activities in New Zealand's culture in the early twentieth century and totalisator machines were a focal point for this activity. The Hokitika Totalisator Building is closely evocative of the whole racing industry. As a rare remaining example of its kind, complete with totalisator machines, the Hokitika Totalisator Building has special significance for New Zealand's history.
It is considered therefore that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
Maori have a long and significant history of occupation of Tai Poutini, the West Coast of New Zealand. In July 1859, James Mackay, a Pakeha Crown agent, began negotiating the purchase of land from Maori for the Crown. The areas around and between the Hokitika (Okitika) and Arahura Rivers hold particular importance for Ngai Tahu, due to the pounamu resources from these rivers. In December 1859 gold was discovered on the West Coast, and Mackay was eager to progress the land purchases. A series of agreements were reached in 1860 and various reserves were laid out. One Ngai Tahu reserve, about ten kilometres north of Hokitika, was for part of an area of the Arahura River. Within a few years, by 1865, a full-scale West Coast gold rush transformed the area near the Hokitika River mouth and the town of Hokitika developed at a rapid pace.
Westland Racing Club
The first Hokitika Races were held in 1866 at a racecourse formed on private farmland on the south side of the Hokitika River. The Westland Jockey Club was formed in 1868 and immediately set its attention to securing a permanent racecourse on public land. A suitable site was found at the Cattle Reserve, where a cricket ground had already been formed, and the first races were held at this location in December 1868. The Westland Jockey Club was dissolved in April 1870 and the Westland Racing Club (WRC) was formed in its place. The WRC approached the Westland Borough Council for land for improved racing facilities, a campaign that gained momentum with the loss of an area of the existing racecourse and cricket ground from flooding in October 1872. Public Reserve 240 at the eastern end of Hampden Street was reallocated as a racecourse in 1872. This land was formally vested in the WRC in 1884, legalised in the Hokitika Racecourse Reserve Act 1884.
At its first race meeting in Easter 1873, the new racecourse at Hampden Street was held to be 'one of the finest racing grounds in the Colony'. At great haste and considerable expense, the WRC cleared and levelled the site and construction of the grandstand was completed for the Easter meeting, considered 'by far the best structure of the kind on the Coast'. The approach to the racecourse and the upper end of Hampden Street was constructed by prison labour, and the development of the racecourse accelerated settlement on the outskirts of Hokitika township.
A totalisator house for the Hokitika racecourse was first mooted in 1885 by WRC steward and West Coast businessman James Daniel Lynch who offered to supply a totalisator and labour to construct a shed if the Club would find funds for the materials. Totalisators operated on New Zealand racecourses since 1879, generally mobile totalisators owned and operated by independent contractors. The pari-mutuel totalisator system originated in France by Joseph Oller in 1860. Pari-mutuel betting, or 'wagering among ourselves', totalled the takings on a race and divided the winnings among the betters in proportion to the amount wagered, less a commission for the totalisator operator. Prior to this, betting on racecourses was controlled by bookmakers who generally paid a fee to the racing clubs to operate on-course. Among punters, the totalisator provided a relatively easy means of on-course betting and was thought to be fairer and more transparent than placing bets with bookmakers.
Horse racing and gambling were important leisure activities in New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. C. W. McMurran, an American writer who toured New Zealand in 1904, observed the respectability of racing throughout the country and noted that 'some of the most successful businessmen of New Zealand are stewards of racing clubs'. McMurran considered the social acceptability of racing to be unusual, with women and children among regular attendees at race meetings. He described the totalisator as the focus of the day's activities and central to the social ritual of horse racing. McMurran considered this to be a New Zealand peculiarity:
Racing in New Zealand is done on a far different plan from that followed in America. Even the rising generation are brought to look upon racing as a simple day's outing. The whole family go together to the races. Women, even with their grandchildren, make up little pools which they send over to the totalisator from the grandstand, and as soon as the horses are started the grandstand occupants become wild with excitement, shouting at the same time the names of their favourite horses. When the horses have passed the judge's box there is a general scramble from the grandstand - such as is seem between the acts in the theatres in America - not to get refreshment, but to obtain the dividend. The disappointed immediately commence to figure out a pool for the next race, taking their bad luck with philosophic resignation. Their wagers, which are small, are made mainly for the sake of the temporary excitement rather than for mere sordid gain.
An essential feature of pari-mutuel betting was the display of the running total of bets placed on each horse so that punters could gauge their expected return. Early totalisators counted bets by non-mechanised means such as blackboard recording or marble counters, but mechanised means of tallying wagers and calculating winnings were soon developed to reduce the potential for human error. The use of machine-operated counters with 'large easy-to-read, professional-looking fonts, rather than handwriting' presented a more secure means of recording bets. Mechanical totalisators were equipped with a set of lever-operated dials, one for each horse, with bets rung-on in increments of ten. While the mechanical operation gave a sense of security, totalisators were occasionally subject to deliberate fraud and government regulations were introduced to control the use of totalisators and systems of betting.
Totalisators were first regulated in New Zealand through the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1881 which required totalisator operators to obtain a licence from the Colonial Secretary and restricted the activities of bookmakers. The number of licences that could be issued was unlimited, resulting in the rapid uptake of totalisators among metropolitan and rural racing clubs. The introduction of the totalisator posed a threat to bookmakers who formed an unlikely alliance with anti-gambling lobby groups and sought to have the totalisator banned. The Gaming and Lotteries Act Amendment Bill of 1907 (introduced as the Gaming Act 1908) restricted gambling to on-course operators and authorised racing clubs to grant licences to bookmakers who applied to operate on-course. The number of totalisator permits issued was also reduced, which appeased anti-gambling lobbyists who expressed concern at the impact on gambling and racecourse development on communities. However, the Act was not favoured by the racing clubs as the ban on bookmakers in public places forced the bookies upon the clubs and racecourses became a 'refuge' for the type of undesirable character that the earlier legislation had sought to exclude. This was addressed in the Gaming Amendment Act 1910 which banned bookmakers from every racecourse and effectively abolished all non-totalisator race meetings. The Act also established a Totalisator Commission to determine the distribution of totalisator permits and to resolve the number of days the totalisator could be used annually.
This legislation signalled the permanence of totalisator systems at racecourses, manifested in the construction of purpose-built structures to house totalisator machines and to manage on-course betting. Mobile operators were replaced by a single machine owned and managed by racing clubs. The regulations also ensured that racing clubs secured a share in the proceeds of gambling and totalisators provided racing clubs with an important stream of revenue. This triggered a cyclic process as returns from investment in totalisator technology and housing enabled further expenditure on racecourse improvements. Larger manual totalisator machines and the introduction of automatic totalisators from 1913 required even larger housings that formed the legalised centres for gambling activities:
Due to the size of this new breed of totalisator, racing clubs constructed purpose built two storied buildings with machinery occupying entire first floors. These totalisator buildings quickly became a permanent feature of most racing clubs throughout New Zealand. The fixed location of the totalisator is important because it laid the foundations for what the Government and the racing clubs would later deem to be an appropriate and official gambling site.
The requirement for permanent totalisator facilities was a boon for independent totalisator operators and designers. In 1907 Christchurch totalisator manager William Hill Macdougall (1868-1939) patented his design for a purpose-built totalisator house. The duodecagonal (twelve-sided) plan with nineteen teller windows was designed to ease crowding experienced with conventional linear totalisator configurations. Macdougall's design physically separated the selling windows from the dividend-paying and change windows and the 40 x 40 feet (12.19 x 12.19 metre) plan could easily be expanded with more windows. His plan reflected the Edwardian trend for polygonal buildings, favoured for use in crowded public situations. Polygonal plans had already been applied to New Zealand racecourse buildings, such as the Riccarton Tea House with two polygonal wings, designed by Luttrell Brothers for the Canterbury Jockey Club in 1903 (Category II historic place, record no. 5330).
Macdougall also launched at this time a new manual totalisator machine to be accommodated in the totalisator house. The totalisator could be operated from the inside ensuring the operator did not obscure the display. Macdougall's totalisator houses were erected at racing clubs throughout Canterbury including the Metropolitan Racing Club (Addington) in 1908 and Ashburton Racecourse in 1909. The recently demolished Opaki Racecourse totalisator at Masterton may have also been a Macdougall totalisator house.
Hokitika Totalisator, 1913
The first totalisator house at Hokitika Racecourse was constructed in 1897 as part of general improvements to Westland Racing Club's facilities. An enlarged totalisator house in a different location within the racecourse was constructed in 1906. The new totalisator was completed in time for the 1907 midsummer races and from this meeting onwards the WRC banned bookmakers from operating on the racecourse.
The legislative changes limiting the activities of bookmakers placed unprecedented demand on the WRC's totalisator, with record totalisator takings received at the Club's 1912 and 1913 midsummer meetings. After the 1913 meeting, the WRC committee resolved to dedicate funds to racecourse improvements, including an improved totalisator. The completion of the improvements was scheduled to coincide with the Westland Goldfields Jubilee celebrations in January 1914. The total expenditure of £1,500 included grounds work, a new grandstand, a new ladies' room, renewed loose boxes and an enlarged birdcage, as well as the new totalisator machine and quarters.
At the end of January 1913 a report was delivered to the WRC committee with a plan for improvements prepared by local engineer James Chicago Macfarlane (1858-1945) and it was announced that committee members H. Lynch and H. Thompson would tour other centres to inspect totalisator facilities. At the opening of the new racecourse facilities on 10 December 1913, the octagonal Totalisator Building was said to be based on the plan of the Christchurch Metropolitan Club, designed by W. H. Macdougall. The original totalisator machine housed in the building was a Macdougall machine, but the physical quarters were likely designed by Macfarlane who oversaw the plan for the racecourse redevelopment. Improvements in the totalisator facilities were held to 'bring the course quite up-to-date, and on a footing with those of the foremost metropolitan clubs'.
The totalisator machine was of the 'chalkboard' type. Bets were taken at the windows with tickets issued for each bet and a tally was recorded on a blackboard within the building. This blackboard was visible to the totalisator operator who rung on bets for each horse in units of ten. The machine tallied bets for 20 horses and was housed in a kauri case measuring 6'6 x 10' (2 x 3 metres). Three minutes before the start of the race the windows were closed and all bets stopped, then the final tally was rechecked and displayed on the totalisator. The polygonal design of the building eliminated the 'rush and bustle with business over the counter', as transactions were conducted over 22 windows, all accessed separately.
The Totalisator Building was positioned on the margin of the 'inside' and 'outside' areas of the racecourse. The division of space was a reflection of differentiation in admission charges with a significantly lower fee applied to the 'outside' area. As part of the 1913 improvements a grandstand was erected at the western end of the course for the 'outside' patrons and the Totalisator Building was accessible to the 'outside area', although with an impaired view of the totalisator display which was positioned to face the 'inside' grandstand. A fence extending from the Totalisator Building to the track was positioned to mark the boundary between the 'inside' and 'outside' areas. In 1920 the WRC abolished the differentiation between 'inside' and 'outside' and charged a universal admission fee. The dividing fence was removed at this time.
In 1950 the state-run Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) was formed to manage all betting on horse racing. A second totalisator machine was installed in the Totalisator Building, probably in the 1960s, to enable the operation of a dual totalisator or 'Double Tote'. Modifications to the building were made to accommodate this. The Totalisator Building remains operational for the WRC's annual midsummer meeting, as part of the West Coast summer racing circuit. In 2010, the building continues to be used for receiving bets and paying out winnings, while totalisator operations are controlled by the TAB's computerised betting system.
The Hokitika Totalisator and other racecourse buildings are situated on the former alignment of Harper Street. The section of road was formally closed in 1955 and vested in the Hokitika Borough Council who transferred ownership to the Westland Racing Club in 1959. Fires in 1928 and 1931 destroyed many of the buildings erected by the WRC in the early twentieth century. However, the Totalisator Building survived and it is currently situated among more recent racecourse buildings including a concrete grandstand, tearooms, stables and other outbuildings. The Totalisator Building is situated at the western end of the racecourse, near the Dalton Street entrance and adjacent to the stables. The Building is positioned approximately 40 metres from the racetrack fence and is separated from the grandstand by the 'birdcage' enclosure where horses are gathered and viewed prior to racing.
The original form of the Hokitika Totalisator Building was an octagonal structure with an elevated projection at the trackside to house the totalisator machine and display. The timber-framed building was clad in timber shiplap weatherboard with a corrugated iron roof. Each side contained a centrally-positioned sash window, with two to three aperture windows for tellers. A projecting verandah, also clad in corrugated iron, encircled the building to provide shelter for punters at the teller windows.
The entire exterior is painted blue with white detailing on the door and window frames and verandah posts. Exposed under-painting indicates that the weatherboards were previously painted off-white and historic photographs suggest that the verandah posts and detailing were once a darker colour. The sash windows are fitted with frosted glass on the lower panes, presumably to conceal the inner workings of the building. The verandah framing is also painted white and the corrugated iron cladding is painted red on the upper side and unpainted on the under side. The totalisator display is covered by removable hardboard, with a mural depicting a racing scene painted by T. J. Salter in 1992. Above some of the teller windows '£1 TICKETS' is faintly visible in under-painting, being the minimum bet that could be placed.
The trackside elevation and western side of the building were significantly altered in the mid-twentieth century, probably the 1960s. However, structural changes may have been incremental from an earlier date. A survey plan from the 1950s shows the building in its original form with eight sides and an appended rectangular section at the trackside extending to the east, presumably to house the totalisator. The totalisator housing was later enlarged significantly, requiring modifications to the external and internal fabric of the building. A rectangular section on the western side is a very clear late addition. Weatherboards on the lower western side are not aligned suggesting that the boards from the octagonal side have been removed to extend the western wall and to form a right-angled corner with the trackside wall. The verandah has been removed from the upper section of the western wall and replaced with a flat-pitched verandah projecting from the mid-point of the wall and continuing around to the trackside. The upper western wall and rectangular totalisator housing is clad in galvanised iron. A door is inserted in the upper section, from which the totalisator operator would exit to the verandah to advise punters of the closing of bets.
The interior structure and layout is relatively unaltered with original timber framework and floorboards throughout. The structure is supported by a central timber post with rafters radiating to the tops of the walls with timber purlins supporting the corrugated iron roof-cladding. Ceiling joists radiate from the central timber post to support the walls with secondary joists springing from the main joists. The 'umbrella' effect of this design allows an uninterrupted interior space. At its opening, the building contained 22 apertures (it has 29 teller windows in its current form) and included 'an enclosure for the banker, and separate compartments for receiving or paying out'. Currently, the interior holds two free-standing enclosures for secure banking facilities. The totalisator machine is accessed from a mezzanine floor within the rectangular extension.
The teller windows are covered with vertically sliding timber shutters, manually operated from the inside. The walls are lined around the windows, but the building contains no other internal wall or ceiling linings. This reflects the intended use of the building which was anticipated to be occupied during daytime hours and mainly in the summer. The rudimentary internal structure and lower level of interior finish compared with the higher degree of exterior finish also reflects the function of the building; the inner workings of the building were not on show and supported the activity performed by the building's exterior in receiving and displaying bets.
The alterations to the western side are clearly legible on the interior with the galvanised iron cladding exposed and the extended floor area is uncovered concrete rather than timber floorboards. The original gable end at the trackside also remains visible, within the rectangular extension to house the enlarged totalisator machine.
Modifications to western side and totalisator housing
Timber framing and weatherboards, corrugated iron.
18th February 2010
Report Written By
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1903
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 3, Canterbury Provincial District, Christchurch, 1903
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906
John Costello and Pat Finnegan, Tapestry of Turf: the history of New Zealand racing 1840-1987, Auckland: Moa Publications, 1988.
R. Graham, 'Who Killed the Bookies?: tracking totalisators and bookmakers across illegal gambling markets', MA thesis, University of Canterbury, 2007.
Westland Racing Club, 1967
Westland Racing Club: Centennial Meeting 1867-1967, [Hokitika]: Hokitika Guardian, 1967.
A fully referenced version of the registration report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.