Rogue trader Nick Leeson was the cheeky choice to launch Ireland's biggest online betting service yesterday.
The website, called paddypower.com, is the new venture from the chain of partly state-funded Irish bookies, Paddy Power Bookmakers.
Leeson, who lost £325m of Baring Bank's money while trading on the futures market in Singapore, was given two free bets to start the ball rolling at the launch in Dublin. He had a punt on the winner of Euro 2000 as well as the price of Nasdaq at the end of the year. All present were keen to stress that any winnings from Leeson's gamble would go to the Irish Guide Dogs Association.
"This opens up the world of betting to a much wider audience," said Leeson. "The dabbler can have great fun with novelty bets cited on paddypower.com. It's also very convenient for sports enthusiasts to go online and place their bets from the comfort of their home or office on virtually any sporting occasion."
There are some 119 Paddy Power shops all over Ireland and the company runs a successful phone betting service called Dial-a-Bet. With 30 per cent of the lively Irish betting market and a projected turnover this year of £250m, it is well placed to exploit the predicted rush to bet online, giving punters the chance to keep winnings away from the taxman.
Visitors to the site can benefit from regular predictions and news, plus special offers - anyone with a losing bet on the Arsenal FC vs Galatasaray SK football match was offered their stake back if a player was sent off. Relief must have been widespread when Gheorghe Hagi was told to walk by the referee in the second half of the game.
"We intend to spend up to £30m over the next five years developing paddypower.com," said Stewart Kenny, managing director of Paddy Power.
The company is pledging to support the service by listening to customer feedback, while building the site with more ecommerce innovations. "We also intend to develop a betting service through Wap and interactive TV," said Kenny.
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