Gibraltar fire hits online betting firms

By Emma Rumney
A major fire in Gibraltar's Waterport power station disrupted the online services of several betting operators over Easter weekend, leaving many eager punters disgruntled.

Much of the region was left without electricity yesterday after a mechanical fault in one of the power station's generators caused an explosion at around 1pm local time. The subsequent fire halted the online betting operations of bookmakers including Ladbrokes, William Hill and Betfred. Thick black smoke raged for just over four hours before local fire fighters were able to bring it under control.

With many of the UK’s major high street chains based in Gibraltar and turning over millions of pounds a year, both bookies and bettors were stuck with a bad hand as the day's football and horse racing events got under way.

Betfred and William Hill's offices share a building overlooking the power station. One Hills’ employee described to the Gibraltar Chronicle how power station workers attempted to quell the blaze but it "just kept getting thicker until flames were coming out of the top of the roof".

Due to its proximity the building was evacuated, disrupting the firm's services. With the Gibraltar Electricity Authority putting the region's network on hold to ensure the safety of fire fighters the area's major communications provider Gibtelecom soon went down too, affecting operators all over the region.

BetVictor were able to keep their services online however as they had a back-up generator on hand.

While official estimates are yet to be given, it’s speculated millions of pounds worth of business could have been lost across the industry. Poker news site Pokerfuse reports that operators PartyPoker lost over 75% of its business on what was supposed to be a busy Easter Sunday.

Operators apologised as they were bombarded with a flurry of complaints on social media and worked to get their services back online.

Hills’ said its services were down for about two-and-a-half hours and Ladbrokes said they were "back to full fitness" by 6pm local time. Some Betfred customers however were still reporting problems yesterday morning.

But the aftermath of Sunday's incident could still be felt across the board as turbines tripped in the same power stations again yesterday, causing a second blackout that lasted around an hour.

The police have ruled out foul play and Gibraltar operators say no customer data was compromised.

Graham Sharpe, William Hill spokesperson, told AFP: "It was just one of those freak events that nobody could have predicted.

"There will be those who claim they have backed a winner but there will be others who have been saved from backing a loser."
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