Betfair gears up for NRL and AFL grand finals

CEO says the site is able to cope with 3 million bets on game day

Footy fans' excitement is hitting fever pitch with both the AFL and NRL grand finals taking place this weekend. Computerworld Australia spoke to Andrew Twaits — CEO of online betting company Betfair — about the kinds of IT infrastructure needed to handle the sheer volume of online bets placed on game day.

Can you give me a bit of background on Betfair and what the company does?

We’re the world’s largest online wagering company, with approximately 4 million customers. The thing that makes Betfair unique is that it’s not a bookmaker or a totalisator: It’s a betting exchange. This is a platform where punters can bet against each other on markets that we manage and which are regulated under various gaming licences. For example our Australian licence is based in Tasmania. The model is very similar to any stock exchange, with a first in, first out system of settling transactions.

The Australasian operation, which I run, is a 50:50 joint venture between ASX-listed Crown Limited (ASX: CWN) and London Stock Exchange-listed Betfair Group Limited. We’ve been licensed here in Australia since February 2006. We have over 200,000 customers and 170 staff.

What does the IT team look like at Betfair?

The core technology platform is run out of the UK, where Betfair started and is still headquartered globally. Locally, our infrastructure and related services are managed in Hobart by a team of 20 information systems staff, with a range of technical specialties.

What kind of infrastructure do you have to handle the peak periods of betting?

We can’t give too much detail away here, but the back-end and middle tier infrastructure is a variety of Linux and Unix equipment. Globally, Betfair is one of the busiest websites in the world. The Australian infrastructure easily copes with over 8000 hits per second, over extended periods of time, during busy periods such as the Australian Open tennis and Melbourne Cup.

With both the NRL and AFL finals this weekend, what are the expected number of bets you expect to receive?

It’s hard to predict, but I’d expect it to be somewhere in the three to 3.5 million bets range based on previous years and factoring in a percentage for strong growth.

What major IT projects are you working on?

We have two main customer-facing projects on the go in the Australian operation. One is a more localised user interface, which will allow us to better present our unique product suite to the Australian customer and allow them even greater control over the site’s functionality. The initial iteration of the new front end is currently out in beta form. We’ve adopted an agile approach to development so it’s constantly evolving based on user feedback and in line with our long term plans.

The other project is a new mobile product being developed in HTML5. We expect to launch this towards the end of October. It will be the only mobile application in the world that allows customers to place bets on a betting exchange — in this case, Betfair’s core product — a tote for exotics such as trifectas and quadrellas, and on multiples, or for instance betting that both Collingwood will win the AFL grand final and Manly will win the NRL.

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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