Mike Moon
Horse racing correspondent
4 minute read
19 Dec 2021
11:07 am

Why did TAB Online fail? 4Racing explains and apologizes

Mike Moon

'It was clear that insufficient investment, manpower, skills sets and innovation had been placed into the technology that underpins the TAB Online product', says 4Racing Chief Digital Officer James Sualez.

Following TAB Online’s recent digital betting system calamities , 4Racing are explaining and apologizing. Picture: iStock

Following TAB Online’s recent digital betting system calamities – in the wake of 4Racing replacing Phumelela as South Africa’s main racing operator – 4Racing’s chief digital officer James Saulez released the following statement:

“In preparing for its role as horseracing operator, the 4Racing executive team began the process of understanding the digital capabilities that underpin all betting experiences, including direct to customer and business to business segments (bookmakers, agencies, affiliates, broadcasters etc).  

It was clear that insufficient investment, manpower, skills sets and innovation had been placed into the technology that underpins the TAB Online product as we know it today. The amount of “technical debt” that had been accumulated over the past decade was vast.

What we are doing to address the challenges

There have been a series of upgrades to our core software and hosting environments, most of which have been undertaken with no impact on our customers. 

On 7 December, however, the largest of these core system upgrades was performed. During the morning, it became apparent that several unforeseen issues arose which placed severe strain on the overall system. This created the following major problems for our customers. 

·       Slow and unresponsive bet placement

·       Slow to refresh race results, betting fields, odds, payouts and pool sizes

·       Issues with online card deposits

There were, however, no issues with

·       Bets being resulted and correctly paid out

·       Other direct-to-customer betting channels, including telephone or branch betting [CG1]

We want to reassure customers of the integrity of the wagering system, which was not compromised, and that pay-outs were not affected and remain accurate.

Multiple rounds of fixes were applied from Tuesday, however we only started seeing improvements by late Thursday.

Our teams worked throughout the weekend trying to resolve these issues and by Monday 13 December overall system performance had improved, with isolated incidents being reported and attended to. 

We are happy to report that ongoing monitoring of our systems are highlighting a more consistently stable and responsive system. 

The prolonged period which it took to stabilise the new software components that underpin TAB Online, however, remains a huge source of frustration and disappointment for us and our customers. For that we are truly sorry for the inconvenience and impact caused. 

We want to remind customers that play.tabonline is the betting portal, and that news.tabonline is the news site, where all betting information is freely available.

The road ahead

4Racing is committed to removing the technical deficiencies we have inherited. Neglecting to do this was simply not an option. We knew it was going to be a tough and complicated process, with elements of unavoidable risk.

2022 will be a pivotal year for our digital transformation efforts. Whilst our customers cannot yet visibly see the benefits of the core upgrades that caused the impact, we hope you will trust in our serious commitment to change and innovation, through digital transformation.

Our transformation roadmap will soon be visible for all to see. The much-desired features that you would expect from an online betting operator are coming and will only be achievable as a direct result of the core upgrades we did.  

Our transformation roadmap is comprised of seven key objectives:

1. Removing the technical debt and numerous blockers that have thwarted experience innovation in the current environment for far too long. 

2. Enabling all bookmakers, affiliates, agencies, software suppliers, aggregators and content providers to easily offer SAFTote tote products on their platforms and have direct access to our data universe.

3. Improving our direct-to-customer betting experience and engagement processes, in line with best-of-breed punter experiences. A new destination will be launching early in 2022, a consolidated betting and content website with an accompanying downloadable mobile app.

4. Integrating with our new broadcast product, 4RacingTV.

5. Growing our audience to include a new, diverse and younger consumer and enabling everyone to experience the sport and engage with the amazing people and stories that exist in the industry.

6. Building first-to-market experiences, whose experiences exist in other sports engagement platforms.

7. Building a true multichannel experience and common identity.

2022 and beyond is going to be an exciting journey that we hope our customers old and new will take with us. 

It will inevitably have bumps along the road, but we simply have to embark upon it.” – 4Racing