It’s not entirely clear what the NFL betting season will look like this year, but that hasn’t stopped operators from getting ready for it.
But what exactly does that mean?
LSR caught up with Sportradar’s VP of US sales and gaming, Neale Deeley, on Monday to discuss official league data in the season ahead:
LSR: How are your pricing models coming along for US sports? There was some feeling in the industry last year that in-play models for US sports in general weren’t quite on a par with European sports.
Deeley: We have been investing a heck of a lot into the US and fleshing out US sports betting. It’s fair to say for NBA and NHL, there was a large global betting audience prior to the repeal of PASPA, so the investment in those models was already there.
It’s a different story with the NFL. For all its dominance in the US, it’s still a minor sport around the world and investment in modeling was commensurate with that. But once we started working with the NFL, we put more money into it, and it’s just ramping up from there.
These things take time. Football is quite tricky to model as well because there’s so few games compared to soccer for example.
LSR: One of the selling points of official data feeds is the potential for new bet types from proprietary league data like Statcast, or tracking chips in NFL shoulder pads. What have you come up with in this area so far?
Deeley: We’re definitely using that information. A big part of the tracking data is figuring out what’s useful for the consumer and what is window dressing. And that’s a process of trial and error.
Baseball, for example, we’ll know the launch angle and the exit velocity. And so we know the likelihood off the bat of whether that will be a home run or not.
So then you can cut suspension time, and the longer your market is up, the better.
LSR: Does that kind of advantage, along with the recent deals you’ve signed, essentially end the official data debate?
Deeley: Most people don’t like paying for anything if they don’t need to. But if you provide a better product and there’s a fair commercial price for that, people will pay it.
I think it’s fair to say the debate has been concluded on the side of ‘yes’ to official data, especially for those with aspirations to be a tier one operator.
The big four sports in the US are so dominant as well, that if you exclude yourself from official data deals with them, then you’re also excluding yourself from potential marketing partnerships.
LSR: Do you think the percentage of bets taken in-play in the US ultimately gets to the 80% figure we see in some European markets?
Deeley: I’m almost certain it will head to 80%. There’s a reason that it’s 80% round the world as people get comfortable with betting on their mobiles. The numbers are gradually going up state by state.
Think about baseball. Every at-bat is an individual contest and there’s huge opportunity for betting at that level. It just takes a bit more familiarity.