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Let’s Talk Gambling: The increased importance of data in sports betting



Roundtable Interview About The Increased Importance Of Data In Sports Betting

The sports betting industry relies heavily on accurate and timely sports data. Operators utilise vast amounts of data to set odds, create betting markets, and enable informed wagering which bettors rely on. Talk Gambling Founder & CEO, Ross TImmins spoke with Tommy Molloy, Chief Product Officer at Sportingtech, Ivo Doroteia, CEO at Playbook Engineering, and Darren Willenberg, Senior Data Analyst at Altenar about how data elevates offerings and experiences.

Which data sets are sportsbooks leaning heavily into in 2024? 

TM: Comprehensive end user data sets are imperative in identifying patterns and trends, including when analysing in-play data. Once these are established and understood, providers can tailor algorithms to offer more betting opportunities or adapt their models to maximise revenues. 

From a liability perspective, utilising real-time liability data allows sportsbooks to automatically trade events without manual adjustments from traders, results in a more seamless and efficient process. This measures potential loss automatically and reduces revenue erosion. 

Analysing these vast data sets drive the continued evolution of machine learning and AI, which can generate predictive models for player performance and match outcomes. This again enhances the overall experience, providing bettors with ready-made selections, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of research.

ID: Major sporting tournaments are the key focus here. Much-heralded events such as the World Cup, Euros, Summer and Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, NBA Finals and UEFA Champions League final often attract a lot of betting activity with current and new customers. 

Popular sporting leagues worldwide such as NFL, NBA, Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga always generate big traffic in the betting industry, whereas interest in other leagues or events depends on the geolocation, such as ski jumping or speedway in Poland, which are niche examples, but the above competitions have a global reach, propelling these events to bettors on a worldwide scale. 

Sportsbooks must constantly look for opportunities and I believe esports can be a great example here. A decade ago, it was a niche, yet now we have players within the market that specialise only in this area. 

The availability of a wide range of sports on TV and online challenges bookmakers to constantly improve the in-play betting offer. Using technology and real-time data, the customer is able to wager on many different markets related to the event they are watching live at a bar or at home. 

DW: A breakthrough year lies ahead for sportsbook providers looking to integrate data into their platforms. With soccer being the biggest sports globally, transactional data, player data, and events data will be high on the list for sportsbooks. In turn, this will give bettors a clearer understanding of how a particular team or player is currently trending.

Transactional data includes all financial transactions, bets placed, and payouts. Understanding patterns in betting can help in adjusting odds and identifying popular markets. Player data gives a detailed overview of statistics on players’ performance, health status, and performance history. 

This is crucial for setting odds and for bettors to make informed decisions. Finally, events data is information about the events themselves, such as team statistics, weather conditions, and venue details. This data is essential for creating a dynamic betting environment.

Are there any sports in particular where the use of data elevates the bettor’s experience? 

TM: Data has always been pivotal for any sportsbook to lean into, and American Football, Basketball, and Baseball are very data heavy, with extensive stats available. American Football in particular is a prime example of how data enhances the betting proposition. It is a very tactical game where markets such as passing and running yards, quarterback rating and more play a significant role in formulating the betting offer. 

Sports where spreads tend to see a large amount of action rely a great deal on these data sets. We are now seeing such data becoming more influential across Europe, following a previous emphasis on core American sports. xG, or expected goals, is now becoming one of the prime data points for bettors to analyse when placing their bets. 

ID: Football is without a doubt a global leader here. In recent years, we have seen a truly incredible development of statistics in football. In the past, the main focal points looked at were goals, assists and clean sheets. 

Now, we have access to far more specific data including expected goals (xG), non-penalty expected goals (npxG), expected assisted goals (xAG), progressive carries, progressive passes, save percentage, shots, shots on target, completed passes, total passing distance, progressive passes, dribbles, interceptions, clearances, errors and many more. 

All that data can help bettors understand team or player strengths and weaknesses and predict specific outcomes for each match. Tennis bettors can analyse player performance on different surfaces (grass, clay, hard, and artificial grass), they can help to compare head-to-head results, service statistics and return data. 

With that knowledge, they may make slightly different decisions when betting on a specific match or the entire tournament. Basketball statistics are as developed as those in football. To make a decision, players can use data such as points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, true shooting percentage, fouls and player efficiency rating. 

Bettors can also analyse line-ups, injuries, pace of play, and historic head-to-heads. American Football, Baseball and Golf are probably the next cabs off the rank when it comes to detailed data within many different markets, but Football and Basketball are currently leading the way.

DW: As mentioned previously, there is no doubt that soccer can be a pioneer when it comes to data elevating the bettor’s experience. 

The figures will specifically be pre-match statistics on players and head-to-head data. Although soccer is likely to be a global leader for data, I would expect other sports to follow suit with the NFL and Basketball datasets on a similar scale.

Ultra-fast latency is important in ensuring data is delivered in a timely way for in-play betting. What improvements can be made here? 

TM: The key data providers in the industry have been trumping one another year-on-year to obtain rights to the biggest sports leagues and competitions in the world, allowing them to deliver data where wagering activity will be high. 

With this responsibility comes expectation from bettors to offer the fastest, most reliable data in the market. Operators still have work to do to deliver the most reliant data sets. Gains can be made by having more scouts at the venues and less reliance on broadcast. There should also be a more sensible approach when commercialising data and ensuring partners support the purpose of data.

ID: There is always room for improvement when it comes to user experience. This is still a work in progress when it comes to data. Despite the fact that there are more and more niche markets in the spotlight, delivering data in the most streamlined way possible is still being meticulously explored.

In addition, the number of in-play markets on offer could be construed, at present at least, as overwhelming for the bettor. A lot does not always mean a good thing, but some bookmakers boast that they have 300 or more in-play markets in their match offer, so some view quantity as the way forward – but it may complicate things for the bettor. 

DW: Distributed computing could enhance speed. Simpler queries and smaller data sets can speed up output, but achieving ultra-fast latency is challenging. 

The smaller the delay, the more complex it is to build and maintain such a pipeline. Ultra-fast latency may not always be required so therefore other areas must be looked into to ensure improvements are maintained.

Data scouting is vital in retrieving data, what role can tech play in delivering enhanced numbers and stats? 

TM: I do believe technology will increasingly be used to furnish betting offers. Automated data collection, real-time data processing, data visualisation tools, computer vision, and sensor technology will see a rapid shift away from manual operations and provide richer, more reliable data at speed.

Traditionally, odds compilers relied on historical data and gut instinct to set prices. In real-time, AI and ML can process an enormous amount of data from various sources, including player statistics, team performance, weather conditions, and more. 

This allows for more accurate odds-making and predictions, a win for the bookmaker in the long run. AI-powered prediction models can factor in many variables that humans might overlook. For example, when predicting the outcome of an NFL game, AI can consider player injuries, recent team performance, and even the time of day the game is played. These insights lead to more precise odds, providing bookmakers and bettors with a competitive edge.

ID: Real-time data streaming, data accuracy, data quality predictive analytics, artificial intelligence data aggregation, integration data analytics, machine learning statistical modelling and visualisation analysis of traffic generated by customers can all play important roles in bolstering particular numbers and stats. The tech is becoming more and more sophisticated so, over the next year or two, I expect data retrieval to take centre stage. 

DW: Our tech is capable of data scouting and this is a great tool for receiving and processing data promptly. Overall, the Altenar Data Feed can play an important role in delivering sports-based stats. As the technology matures, it will be easier for sportsbooks to display this to bettors, who in turn get a better understanding of the data that is in place for each sport.

Building a real-time terminal for traders would require a different tech stack, including frameworks and programming languages. By incorporating these expanded details, sportsbooks can leverage technology and data more effectively to enhance betting experiences and operational efficiency.

Hi, I'm Ross, founder of Talk Gambling. I've operated within the gambling industry for several years, primarily within the affiliate sector. I originally focused on design and user experience but in recent years I've pursued a passion for SEO, digital marketing and creating great content. Please feel free to get in touch and say hello!