Gibraltar is home to about 26 online betting firms, including Betfred, Ladbrokes and William Hill, as many international firms prefer the territory due to its lower taxes. Offshore firms are not charged the Horseracing Betting Levy that their UK-based counterparts have to pay. Online gambling contributes a significant percentage of Gibraltar’s economy. Unfortunately, a fire broke out Sunday and left most of the territory without electricity, which affected betting operations for several hours.
The fire started in the Waterport Power Station, cutting off electricity and producing thick black smoke that prompted the police to urge residents to keep their windows closed. The station was evacuated and fire extinguished quickly, which avoided any casualties. William Hill, which is adjacent to the power station, was also evacuated and the services remained disrupted for about two-and-a-half hours.
None of the 50 employees was injured because of the accident. Graham Sharpe, the company’s spokesperson, apologized to customers, saying the fire was simply one of those unpredictable freak events. He explained that although some people would claim they could have backed winners, there are also those who were prevented from backing losers. William Hill started its online betting operations in Gibraltar in 2010. Ladbrokes also issued a statement of apology to its customers but assured them that none of their data was compromised.
The disruption of power affected the services of Gibtelecom, which consequently interfered with the operations of major betting firms. The company’s communications network links Gibraltar to the rest of the world. The police said there was no need of evacuating the residential areas close to the source of fire.
The fire seemed to have started just after 2 p.m. following the explosion of a generator that had a mechanical problem. Fire extinguishers and other emergency services rushed there and took control of the situation. It took about two hours to completely extinguish the fire, and engineers started restoring the power by 5:30 p.m. Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, commended the emergency services for their quick response. However, he said that the power outage took too long, and the lessons learned must be reflected in new plans.