With another Cheltenham Festival in the books, the media is bracing for the annual self-flagellation of the bookies. Each year, bookmakers don their sackcloth and ashes and compete with each other ‘Four Yorkshiremen-style’ to illustrate just how few presents will be under their respective Christmas trees this year now that daddy’s been taken to the cleaners. At least this year, two bookmakers can be said to have some justification for this detest-fest, but it was their own digital failings that brought them to ruin.
Irish bookies Paddy Power made an impression on racing fans by launching a 63-foot-high hot-air balloon (pictured) modeled on the famous ‘lucky pants’ worn by Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner at the Euro 2012 footie fest. The sight of a giant pair of green Y-fronts floating over the course was enough to cause race organizers to ask the Civil Aviation Authority to send over a Sopwith Camel or two to bring down the aerial invader, but Paddy chose discretion (as much as they’re capable of) over valor and tethered the fully inflated balloon to a nearby private garden in full view of anyone in the stands.
However, punters trying to actually place wagers on Paddy’s online site were left floating in the breeze when the site crashed on Friday ahead of the Gold Cup. The site remained down until the day’s first race was already in the books, prompting annoyed punters to suggest Paddy spend less time inflating giant novelty props and more on beefing up technical infrastructure.
A similar fate befell the Coral Interactive site on Wednesday after a veritable tsunami of punters attempted to take advantage of an overgenerous offer on Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Every other bookie had the favorite at 1/4, but Coral decided to offer even odds on the nag, although they proved they weren’t entirely bonkers by capping wagers at £20. Regardless, few people are willing to turn up a free £20, and the rush to the site on race day caused Coral Interactive to seize up.
Adding insult to injury, the site stayed down through the bookie’s own sponsored race, the Coral Cup. Coral’s recent Q1 earnings report referenced problems with its new OpenBet/Playtech-powered website since its October 11, 2012 launch, but Coral communications director Simon Clare told GamblingCompliance that the site had been working well up until Wednesday’s crash. Clare said Wednesday’s surge was something “you can’t recreate in a tested environment … All you can do is apologize and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Either that or say you’ve finally figured out what you’re going to give up for Lent this year: profits.