Betfair Up to the Cheltenham Task

12 March 2003

Despite reported difficulties with its betting system, leading P2P wagering service appears to be handling high volumes of wagering without problems. On the first day of England's Cheltenham Festival, eclipsed its turnover numbers for last year's entire event.

The company caught the attention of many in the bookmaking industry when it suffered serious server problems a week before England's biggest racing festival. The glitch was related to an attempted upgrade to servers in preparation for increased action during the festival.

"Our confidence has been restored now after the first day so I am sure we will continue to hit new highs as the excitement builds over the next two days of the festival."
-Mark Davies

Even after four months of testing, Betfair's new servers, as spokesman Mark Davies put it, failed "miserably" when they went live.

To make sure the site was ready for its projected 16,000 bets a minute during the festival, Betfair reverted to its old servers, raising questions as to whether the system would survive the festival.

But the servers held up well throughout Tuesday, the first day of races, even during peek trading hours.

"It was a great day," Davies said. "The site performed as well as it ever has."

By Davies' account, the official tote system used at the track during the festival, on the other hand, was saddled with failure.

Davies said that during the fourth race of the day the system crashed and was unable to process bets during the fifth race of the day.

"It is kind of ironic that their system, which handles a fraction of the betting action that we do, couldn't keep up with the demand," he said. "There is no telling how much money they missed out on and what kind of damage this could cause for them in the next two days."

Phone calls by IGN to officials with Cheltenham were not immediately returned.

Not only was Betfair's system up to the task during day one of the festival, but Davies said that a handful of records were set.

Prior to Monday only once had taken in more than £1 million in turnover on a single race. That happened when Rock of Gibraltar of Ireland was entered in the Breeders' Cup Mile last year. The second such instance came in Tuesday's second race, in which Betfair took in more than £1.3 million. The following race brought in more than £1.6 million. Once that turnover was added to the ante post action put down in the days leading up to the race, Davies said, more than £2 million was wagered on the race, another milestone for Betfair.

"We just had a fantastic day and broke record after record," he said. "We probably took in more than £8 million on the day."

Last year Betfair's total turnover for the entire festival was just under £8 million. Considering the one-day total this year surpassed that, Davies is confident that new standards will be set in 2003.

"I am sure there were some people holding back on the first day waiting to see how the system would hold up," he said. "Our confidence has been restored now after the first day so I am sure we will continue to hit new highs as the excitement builds over the next two days of the festival."

Davies admitted that officials with Betfair were anxious leading up to the festival after the server problems.

"We had been rigorously testing these servers and their components for nearly four months," he said. "As soon as they went live they fell flat on their face."

He said both Sun Microsystems and Oracle, two of the world's leading providers of such equipment, made the servers. He attributed the errors to the uniqueness of the equipment and the demands placed on it.

"Both companies have written patches to remedy the problems," he said. "We are doing more testing and should be able to roll them out sometime next month."