Big race fever crashes online betting agency

Von Michael Crawford

For the second day in a row the New South Wales (NSW) state betting agency Totalizator Agency Board (TAB) was unable to take bets from thousands of punters keen to have a wager on the country"s premier horse race -- the Melbourne Cup.

On Tuesday the NSW TAB online betting portal literally crashed.

Just 40 minutes before the "race that stops the nation" started, the NSW TAB Web site was not only unable to log in users, but was unable to process bets leaving punters with a lavender screen of death.

Users were shown the purple homepage with the words "System Temporarily Unavailable. Please Try Again Later", and were asked to contact NSW TAB customer service for further information.

TAB spokesperson Peter Fletcher said the initial problem with the Web site was due to betting load, and all attempts were made at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday to get it up and running before the race started at 3.10 p.m.

The site was accessible only minutes before the race started.

"We are only speculating at the moment but we expect the issues to be load-related," Fletcher said.

"Betting was up 8 percent on last year and we expect online betting to grow exponentially, but some people will be put off -- the account betting structure allows for Internet and phone betting to be done from the same account but it was not an ideal situation for anyone.

"It is impossible to state the amount of betting lost today; revenue from the Internet is still small overall, but we don"t like any network disruptions and send our apologies."

NSW TAB anticipated taking in more than 8 million individual bets through both in-store and online trading.

On Monday a software error resulted in a NSW TAB head office server being down for nearly two hours with the result that almost half of the TAB offices were unable to take bets. Fletcher said half of a two-section, cash trade network was unavailable, adding that he was glad to have the problem yesterday rather than on the day of the Melbourne Cup.

Robert Edge, from online betting site International All Sports, said the Melbourne Cup is one of the busiest days in Sydney for betting along with the Autumn carnival.

"We now have more clients online than ever before and today (Tuesday) took between 20,000 and 25,000 online wagers on the Melbourne Cup," Edge said, adding that the number of people betting online through International All Sports has risen considerably compared to last year.