LSR Q+A: PointsBet COO On Dangers Of New ‘Always On’ Live Sports Betting

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PointsBet claimed a US first last week, with the debut of its “always on” live betting product.

The operator said it had 100% uptime for live NFL betting on sides and total for the Super Wild Card Weekend game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals.

“We believe this to be the first ever result of this kind in the US,” said PointsBet CEO Johnny Aitken in a release.

PointsBet said the game was a trial run to test the technology ahead of a wider rollout next year. The in-play platform is driven by Banach Technology, which PointsBet acquired last year. The operator said it could ultimately roll out the technology to player props, as well as core markets.

How new PointsBet in-play betting product works

PointsBet’s in-play model is powered by the Genius official NFL data feed.

However, that feed and non-official equivalents cut out for around one third of game-time. That happens in high-risk spots like a potential fumble, a fourth down, plays in the deep red-zone or a coach’s challenge.

However, Banach’s technology allows a trader to input his own assumptions to keep a price live at all time; for example, ‘they win this challenge 40% of the time.’

LSR caught up with Mark Hughes, former CEO of Banach and now group COO at PointsBet, to discuss the new in-play product.

LSR: How was the test run? Will we see it again this NFL postseason?

Hughes: We are saving this for next year now. This was a test essentially to see if we could do it. We were pleased with how it went, but we have to do some product work to do this at scale. 

LSR: How much bigger is the risk of getting picked off when you are live on those big moments?

Hughes: Being picked off is part of life. But we looked at the time we would have been suspended, what activity we saw, what percentage was sharp. And it didn’t increase exponentially. We trust our traders and we have automated risk tools that kick in if a price is getting hammered.

We’ll definitely get picked off more, no doubt, but we are focused on the user experience first. I’d rather put pressure on traders and risk to improve. The focus is to get the best product, which means more uptime. Trading should support that.

LSR: Will you be at 100% uptime next season?

Hughes: We are aiming for high-90’s uptime, at scale. If we build it properly, you need a trader to watch the game when it is high-risk, but you don’t need one trader for every game.

LSR: Does more uptime come with a bigger bet delay? Some in-play products promise minimal bet delay, but are only up during breaks – is that the trade-off?

Hughes: We are challenging teams internally to get bet delay down to zero. It is 6-8 seconds on average across operators. We’re aiming to get to less than three seconds. We think we can get there next season. 

LSR: Can you do this while still dealing -110, or does more risk mean more margin?

Hughes: That is the goal. And on live player props, you might see the theoretical hold get tighter than it is currently.

LSR: There seems to be a distrust of in-play products in some quarters, since bookmakers usually have a faster feed than TV viewers. Do you hear that feedback?

Hughes: It is tricky because you can’t solve for everything. We are not ahead of people at the game and those with a low latency stream. Ultimately we are just trying to be in sync what people see.

Syncing that up to the feed is the holy grail. If someone is picking us off at the game, then we can give them a bet delay.