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Punters' fury as Betfair error means all bets are off

By Luke Byrne

Hundreds of punters thought all their Christmases had come at once yesterday when a bookie's error meant they were offered hugely inflated odds on a fancied runner at Leopardstown.

The punters had placed their 'in-running' bets - placed during the race - with online betting exchange Betfair on the horse Voler La Vedette in the woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle at the Dublin racecourse.

But due to a "technical failure" they were offered odds that were too generous, at up to 28/1.

It saw punters pile on £1,642,094 in bets at the 'wrong' odds and were set to win tens of millions before the error was spotted and all bets declared void.

The error has been likened to playing the lottery after the numbers are drawn as punters were able to place money at long odds despite the horse leading the race.

Before the race started, the horse was second favourite to win at odds of 13/8 - meaning a bet of £8 would win just £13.

Many bookies allow betting during a race and the odds are constantly updated, depending on how the horses are performing.

With a short distance left in the race, Voler Le Vedette looked the clear winner. But Betfair now listed the horse's odds at dramatically longer than when it started.

Despite her lead, Betfair had Voler Le Vedette at 28/1, meaning every bet of £1 would win £28.

Just under €2m (£1.66m) was placed on the horse at these odds, meaning that almost €56m (£46m) would be paid out.

Betfair uses a matched betting system in which an offer to make a bet can be accepted or 'matched' by a customer, or by the company.

Betfair's online graph for the race yesterday showed that around €25m (£21m) was offered for bets on the horse at 28/1.

Betfair suspended the market in order to investigate.

Last night the company said that a considerable sum had been placed on the odds of 28/1.

A statement added: "An investigation has revealed that this was due to an obvious technical failure which allowed a customer to exceed their exposure limit. In accordance with our terms and conditions, all in-running bets on this race, both win and place, will be made void. We fully appreciate the dissatisfaction this will cause many customers, and apologise for a very poor customer and betting experience."

Factfile

Betfair's online exchange allows customers to choose their own odds and bet against each other, eliminating the need for a bookmaker.

Members can either 'back' bets, which are normal bets on a selection to win, and 'lay' bets, where the punter is betting against the selection.

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