Putting the punter into the ‘equotion’

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The chief executive of UK-based tipster start-up Equotion, which recently completed a seed funding round, says the wider usage of big data in sports-betting will inevitably lead to an arms race between the punters and the operators.

The funding round has been led by chief executive James Waterhouse, a Leeds, UK-based angel investor with a track record of investments in various tech-related areas. He hopes the company will become a leading player in the betting analytics market.

“Our focus is on defining which bets to place where at what value,” he says. “We aim to provide the most accurate turnkey betting tips designed to empower a new kind of turf investor that treats horseracing as just another (albeit uncorrelated) investment product to the stock exchange or FX trading.”

Waterhouse says that the application of big data in terms of helping punters is a relatively new area. “Equotion was borne out of a realization that there is a degree of science behind the prediction of sporting outcomes,” he says. “If you look at the effort that goes into breeding, training and developing horses and take into account the amount of time spent deciding which events at which courses a horse will be run in, you start to get a sense of how a system that is capable of analyzing all of the hundreds of thousands of variables involved in every day of racing can give you an edge as a punter.”

The growing use of big data on both sides of the divide between operator and customer is growing and Waterhouse believes that the potential for disruption is growing. “Predictive data techniques used across the business and academic world have the potential to massively disrupt the sports-betting industry and Equotion are right at the forefront of this phenomenon,” he says.

The increasing use of algorithms and technology on the part of the operators is a huge factor in how modern sports-betting operators have developed, but the downsides of the increasing automation are now visible to the punters. Disruption cuts both ways, says Waterhouse.

“There is a great deal of disquiet amongst regular punters about the way bookies use technology to close accounts and restrict what they can bet,” he says. “The exchanges open up new opportunities but limitations in liquidity and the constant attacks from automated trading systems make these challenging places for your average punter to bet. It is inevitable that solutions like Equotion will trigger an arms race and this is something that will be interesting to see in the coming years.”

Equotion has also brought online gaming veteran Graham Martin on board as non-executive chairman. He is currently the non-executive chairman at an Australian-based gaming specialist Cardinal House and was previously chairman at Aim-listed Probability, which was subsequently bought by IGT. He was also the founder of UK retail bookmaker Scotbet.

Talking of Equotion, he said it was the “most exciting current development in the world of sports analytics today”.  “The accuracy that the team have been able to demonstrate is astonishing and the toolset has the capability to turn the world of gambling on its head, putting the punter in the driving seat.”

Waterhouse said that since leaving corporate life in 2012 he has been involved in a number of big data business in the healthcare and merger and acquisition areas. “Linking all of my investments is the use of technology to analyse and extract insight from large volume datasets requiring a new kind of analytical technique and linking together many different data sources,” he says.