Web site failure blocks betting

TAB Ltd was forced into damage control mode last weekend when a Telstra failure blocked 52,000 online punters from accessing their normal betting sites.

Telstra servers supporting the sites crashed during a software upgrade and weren't fully restored for 15 hours.

The two sites shut down by the failure, racetab.com.au and sportstab.com.au, annually pour $200 million into TAB Ltd's coffers. Together they handle all online sports, horse, greyhound and trotting bets from TAB customers.

Compounding the seriousness of the situation, the problem surfaced at 9:30pm Friday on the eve of the most revenue-rich period of the betting week.

The incident underscores the exposed position of businesses whose main contact with customers is the Internet.

It also highlights the need to update penalty clauses in service provider contracts.

TAB Ltd was able to avert a revenue extinction event because it maintains alternative channels of access to customers which were used to inform and service the client base.

It e-mailed all 52,000 online customers on Saturday morning to alert them and an announcement outlining the situation was broadcast over racing radio station 2KY in Sydney.

TAB also e-mailed Web site addresses which effectively routed punters around the failed Telstra servers to TAB-supported betting sites.

Online punters were able to fall back on TAB's phone betting service to access their accounts, said public affairs manager Peter Fletcher.

Those measures prevented a revenue drop, but TAB is seeking undertakings from Telstra to avoid a recurrance of the situation, Fletcher said. He declined to discuss whether TAB will invoke the penalty clauses in its Telstra agreement.

TAB's Internet wagering transactions have risen about 67 per cent over last year as phone customers transition to the Net. They are attracted by the extra information available online and its speed of access.

Friday night's failure was the first major interruption to TAB's online betting service in recent memory, according to Fletcher.

Telstra partially restored the inaccessible Web sites at 12:30pm Saturday and fully restored them two hours later.

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