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January 27, 2006

Super Bowl XL Has Servers Cranking Overtime At Sports Sites



Courtesy of TechWeb News

Super Bowl XL fever is spreading to the Internet. Online ticket sales are sizzling. Servers are cranking overtime at gaming sites. Sites are even cashing in on the advertising craze that surrounds the monster sporting event.

Wagering on the Big Game has always been a sport of its own, but that time-honored pastime reaches new heights with online betting. Before the Internet, gamblers had to contact bookies or travel to casinos. The Internet has changed all' that. Just ask the IT guys at sites like bodog.com, pinnaclesports.com, and sportsbook.com.

"The Internet is forgiving, making it the perfect medium for gambling," said Simon Nobel, chief executive officer at Pinnacle Sports U.K., on Friday. "The Internet puts everything at your fingertip, information on betting strategies you wouldn't normally have available at a gaming table, such as the difference between a parlay or a teaser."

Sometime this year, visitors to the site might find a blog to assist them in gaining feedback and tips from other online gamblers. The site has a poll to bet on the company that televises the most creative advertisement. Budweiser is the favorite, Nobel said, followed by Burger King and Pepsi.

When Pinnacle Sports U.K. launched in 1998, sports bets were placed via telephone. Today, all but 1 percent of the business has shifted to the Internet. "Tens of thousands of bets are placed daily," Nobel said.

To avoid United States regulations, sites like PinnacleSports.com operate from offshore locations. This year, PinnacleSports.com, which is licensed in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, is accepting limits of $100,000 for the Super Bowl, and expects more Internet traffic on that Sunday than any other day in the year.

Securing Web sites similar to PinnacleSports.com is Top Layer Network, which helps to protect the infrastructure at Internet-based companies against "denial of service attack that are based on high volumes of Internet-based traffic," said Mike Paquette, vice president of product management and marketing at Top Layer. "We have between 20 and 30 customers in online gaming, and it's very important to protect the computing systems that help accept and report on those bets, so they don't become overwhelmed by traffic."

Adam Hills, Top Layer's director of security strategies, said "There are typically more denial of service attacks around big events like the Super Bowl that have pretty much frozen them."

The Internet has made finding ticket easier, too. The eBay Inc. auction drop-off store iSold It launched a service on Thursday to provide an easy way for sports fans to score tickets online.

By entering the $25 billion secondary ticket market, iSold It adds a new category of items to its long list of online auctions. "There are two Super Bowl tickets listed on the site for $3,600 each, and there are 18 bid with five days left," said Ken Sully, president and chief executive at iSold It, who built-up the Mail Boxes Etc. chain sold to United Parcel Service Inc.

A business model built on the Internet, iSold It runs between 30,000 and 40,000 auctions a month, Sully said. "We're close to $20 million in revenue. Many of our stores are less than six months old." The company, which has 165 locations and sold in December $3.6 million in goods, expects to handle tickets from concerts to theaters, but sporting events are expected to top the list.

As for the tickets, there is no upfront charge. There is a 15 percent commission and processing fee taken at the time the tickets sell. For those who can't make an event, iSold It can list the tickets for sale within 48 hours and deliver them to the buyer in time for the event.

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