April 23, 2012

Centrebet embarks on post-acquisition IT consolidation

Online wagering operator, Centrebet, is consolidating its IT infrastructure to reduce costs and remove system duplication following its $183 million takeover by UK-based rival, Sportingbet, in September last year.

A migration of Centrebet’s Web infrastructure over to Sportingbet’s internal platform is underway as well as consolidation of the two companies’ wide area networks (WAN) and call centres.

According to Centrebet network operations manager, Shane Paterson, the company - which has an annual turnover of $1 billion a year and offers 6000 international sports and horseracing wagering events on its website - migrated Sportingbet’s Darwin call centre operations into its own call centre in Alice Springs late last year.

Sportingbet’s Darwin hosting services were also migrated to Sydney, where Centrebet keeps its hosting services. The migration and consolidation will be complete in June 2012.

“The outcomes [of the project] will be significant cost reduction, simplified management and not having to worry about multiple WAN links,” Paterson said of the consolidation program.

Prior to its acquisition, Centrebet implemented a Microsoft Windows Azure platform for the Spring Racing carnival which takes place in October every year.

He said the company had considered buying hardware which would have cost $50,000 and hosting the platform internally.

“The return on investment for us was that we didn’t have to invest in any capital expenditure outlays,” he said of the decision to opt for Azure.

“The network also performed well because data was distributed over a large number of machines rather than a single database. We have access to sufficient bandwidth and processing power when punter numbers and transactions spike.”

Paterson said the company selected Azure also because of a long standing partnership with Microsoft. There are now plans to build microsites for other sporting events such as Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) grand finals.

Because of the amount of transactions going through the Centrebet website, security issues such as denial of service (DDoS) attacks are never far from Paterson’s mind.

“We got hit with a nasty DDoS attack back in 2004 which lasted a week and since then we get a serious attempt once a year,” he said.

The company was also a victim of cyber squatting in 2009. Attempts to expand to Greece ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup were hampered by cyber squatting on both the centrebet.gr and centerbet.gr domains. The company, through Melbourne IT, ultimately resorted to using dispute resolution laws in Greece to get back the domain names in time for the World Cup, through the ELTA, the Hellenic Post Office.

“We’ve used Melbourne IT brand protection services and that has helped stop further cyber squatting attempts,” he said.

While the company does not operate pokie machines, which are subject to a $1 maximum bet in Australia, Paterson said it is required by legislation to impose weekly and monthly wagering limits for its online customers to crack down on problem betting.

In November last year, the Internet Industry Association made a submission to the federal Interactive Gambling Act 2001 in which it said prohibition of online gambling sites and applications was ineffective given the availability of offshore services.

Instead, the IIA called for problem gambling to be regulated at the PC and smartphone-level.

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