Sports betting and big data – a Q&A with iSport Genius

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iSport Genius is a business that wouldn’t exist without big data. The Melbourne-based company has built a platform which synthesises an unprecedented amount of sports information and huge data sets into bite-sized information nuggets to guide punters towards potential bets. As Nathan Rothschild, co-founder and partner says, the idea is to give the user of a betting site the record of, for instance, Manchester United over the past six seasons, playing a night game, as a home favourite, in wet conditions, when leading at half-time, following a five-day break and coming off a winning streak of three games. All that info is crunched within a second. Big data is core to the company and Rothschild is convinced that there is more to come from leveraging the existing technology to bring further solutions within the gambling space. We start with the technology the company employs...

GamCrowd: What is the technology you are employing? What programmes? What systems?
Nathan Rothschild:
At a high level we custom build our technology. We approach every build differently depending on the ideal infrastructure to optimise efficiency. We use the likes of GO, HTML5, Node.JS, Python, PHP, AngularJS, as well as both NoSQL (MongoDB/DynamoDB) and MySQL database structures. Furthermore, we utilise the latest cloud technology to enable autoscale and multi-region delivery and are supported by two powerhouses in this space - AWS and Rackspace. By leveraging the likes of Redis Cache, we possess extremely fast data-crunching and content-delivery capability, which is paramount for the sporting industry and for handling big data projects. While catering for all devices, a mobile first approach has become increasingly important. The creation of custom technology allows us to meet the exact needs of our clients for product, performance, design and integration purposes.

GamCrowd: We know the regulators are looking at big data – how do you feel the better utilisation of big data can help operators with regard to issues around responsible gambling and more informed gambling generally?
Nathan Rothschild:
That is a great question as I recently spoke at the annual conference for the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) at the invitation of Nick Tofiluk, executive director of the UK Gambling Commission. I was demonstrating the iSport Genius platform and also discussing big data more generally, particularly with regards to the wagering industry and consumer facing initiatives. The talk and iSport Genius were well received, with 88% of respondents agreeing that provision of data relating to historical results of sporting events leads to a more informed consumer, while 59% of respondents thought that operators should supply a minimum amount of data to consumers. Speaking to regulators from various jurisdictions throughout the conference, there was a really pleasing level of support for, and understanding of, iSport Genius. In terms of new initiatives for the gaming industry, there was a clear consensus that big data can both play a role for operators in acquiring customers in a responsible fashion, as well as better informing bettors when making a betting decision. The provision of big data to bettors as an acquisition strategy was viewed as a far healthier alternative to some other strategies, with a more informed consumer widely agreed as being a positive development. There is also a massive opportunity for operators when monitoring customer’s behaviour from a responsible gambling perspective, given the unprecedented amount of information at operators’ disposal. Whether it is variance in bet frequency or size, or generally any other alarming difference in consumer behaviour, it is all a data issue which can certainly be monitored. Better data inputs will correlate to an improved monitoring process.

GamCrowd: How can big data help with the issues that have arisen in the UK around bonuses and offers, particularly with reference to the recent announcement of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) probe?
Nathan Rothschild:
I think we can expect to see the CMA put pressure on the operators – and their providers – to adopt advanced data analytics to better track and analyse players’ behaviour on a wide range of promotional activity. For example, the number of times a particular promotion is successfully fulfilled, either entirely or partially, as a comparative ‘success’ indicator. This should provide some tangible ‘evidence’ to demonstrate whether or not any particular promotion can be described as ‘provably fair’ and entirely understood by the prospective participant. The better-organised operators are no doubt already undertaking, or planning, such an approach, and it seems feasible that the CMA – working alongside the UKGC –could require such use of big data being one future term of holding a UK operator licence.

GamCrowd: How do you think big data will be utilised by the industry going forward? What developments can you foresee away from the issues around marketing?
Nathan Rothschild:
Certainly there is clear evidence that an insightful data solution relating to form and betting markets is both a great acquisition and retention tool, as proven by the performance of Infohub (powered by iSport Genius) with Ladbrokes Australia. From a regulatory standpoint, in addition to the points already made around monitoring consumer behaviour, big data will play an increasing role in monitoring and protecting the integrity of sporting events, with bets and the general flow of money to be increasingly linked to the underlying sporting event itself. Big data also presents an opportunity for operators to create new markets. We are consistently seeing an increase in demand for non-traditional markets, particularly at the player level (i.e. player proposition bets), so operators with the ability to offer unique and interesting markets will have a point of difference when acquiring new customers. Trading teams will also benefit from the increasing amounts of data at their disposal. With the pricing of markets being a big data question, any improvement in the quantity and/or quality of the underlying data set will lead to more efficient prices set by traders. Additionally, big data will become an increasing influence in the industry at a more holistic level. Big data will be used to scrutinise efficiencies of all major aspects of a brand’s operations, from employee performance through to assessing ROI on marketing campaigns. Big data also presents a massive opportunity for the personalisation of the wagering experience for consumers. By personalisation, I mean that the entire feel and offering of what is presented to a consumer is in line with their preferences, which itself is simply a big data question as it is based on a user’s prior activity. Examples are which promotions users are most likely to use, which sports and markets they are most likely to bet on, what time and day of the week are they most likely to be active. With all of this knowledge, an operator can ensure it serves the most enticing promotions and specifically tailored content to provide the most relevant experience for each user, no matter their past activity. The result will be an uplift in engagement with the consumer as every point of interaction with the operator is optimised to what the user wants to see, and when this happens the key metrics for sportsbooks will increase.