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Nov 15, 2018

Why it’s important to think about the future of betting

The development of sports betting

What does the future have in store?

Why the way we bet is ever changing

Why it’s important to think about the future of betting

The first ever bet or instance of gambling in some form can be traced back over thousands and thousands of years. While a lot has changed in that time, there is still plenty of room for development and even more change. Why is it important to think about the future of betting? Read on to find out.

The primary concern for most bettors is the here and now. While the use of historical data in trying to predict the outcome of an event in the future is a basic component of betting, it often limits bettors in terms of how far they think ahead.

Understanding the history of betting and how it’s got to where it is now is interesting but it won’t necessarily provide you with an edge. However, thinking about this in relation to what might happen in the future could prove to be a useful endeavour for anyone serious about betting.

One of the keys to finding value in the betting market is exploiting something that the bookmaker is yet to factor into their odds and the sooner you anticipate the more scope you have to make money from it. Whether it’s new technology, capitalising on new markets or even new sports entirely, there is always potential to find an edge.

The development of sports betting

Gambling has come a long way since the rolling of a dice in China back in around 2300 BC. Simplified versions of betting on sports, like chariot races and gladiator games in Ancient Rome, soon developed into a more organised activity with the emergence of designated “bet takers” or bookmakers.

Sports bettors are placing a greater importance on the odds they bet with, the amount they can bet and are also putting more thought into how they can beat the bookmaker than ever before.

What started with horse racing soon spread to other sports such as soccer and tennis. Bookmakers then moved from trackside or outside stadiums and into betting shops before the Internet burst onto the scene and online betting begun to take off in the late 20th century.

Since Pinnacle was founded in 1998, countless bookmakers have launched around the world. Now you can bet on pretty much any sporting event across various competitive levels and in numerous different formats. 

While the mechanics of sports betting have changed considerably over time, so has the way people approach the process of placing a bet. It is those that have adapted and spotted an opportunity quicker than anyone else that have been the beneficiaries of the fact that betting is constantly evolving.

Where is sports betting now?

The industry might be a competitive place for bookmakers, but the betting market itself is also incredibly crowded and full of people trying to achieve the same goal - the Wisdom of the Crowd principle tells us that this a good thing for bookmakers as it makes the challenge even more difficult for bettors.

It is now harder to make a consistent profit from sports betting than it has ever been. Not least because once you figure out a way to do it, you will most likely be restricted or have your account closed. Additionally, most bookmakers will operate with margins in excess of 6-7% and that means bettors have to work even harder to find valuable betting opportunities.

Instead of continuing to develop in terms of the quality of odds on offer, most bookmakers are investing in other areas of business. The growth of marketing and the need to stand out from the competition means bookmakers will spend money on pushing “free” bets and offers, big budget advertising campaigns or unnecessary features to reach new customers.

These kind of bookmakers a built on square customers (they’ll ban anyone who would be considered sharp) so they are obviously trying to appeal to these types of people, but bettors are actually beginning to move the other way. In recent years there has been a shift within the sports betting community and customers are becoming more knowledgeable about the kind of service they receive.

Sports bettors are placing a greater importance on the odds they bet with, the amount they can bet and are also putting more thought into how they can beat the bookmaker than ever before. There is a wealth of data available to help bettors make more informed decisions, as well as ample resources that can help them become more educated about betting and exactly what it takes to succeed in the long term.

What does the future have in store?

The point of this article is not to predict exactly what will happen in future and how that can be used to get an edge over the bookmaker. Instead, it is to encourage people to consider how things might change and to not get caught playing catch up - if the bookmaker is forced to play catch up then it is the bettor that has the advantage.

Data is by no means new in sports betting. Most bettors will now use data before placing a bet (even if they don’t know it) - this could be as simple as looking at two soccer teams’ head-to-head record for a 1X2 bet or their average goals per game for a Total Goals bet. However, the amount of data we have access to and, more importantly, the quality of that data is what is changing. 

Once you have collated your data and identified a potential edge to exploit, only once you have modelled it and thoroughly tested it will you be able to fully benefit from it financially.

The weather is a great example to use in terms of thinking ahead to find an edge. We know it's important in baseball betting (as well as many other sports) but the first people to quantify that, then gather the data and bet accordingly are the ones that saw the value and capitalised on it. After a while (when more people begun to realise its importance) the weather was factored into the odds and is no longer a factor that can be exploited.

A more recent example that has followed the same course is expected goals in soccer. The metric was previously confined to the soccer analytics community as a means of measuring team performance. A simple change to how this metric was analysed and implemented resulted in bettors being able to identify value bets in various soccer leagues (unsurprisingly this didn’t last long and now all bookmakers will use expected goals in their predictive models).

Bettors shouldn’t be thinking in the short term. Instead of trying to find an edge for this weekend’s Premier League fixtures, think about what might change in the future that can provide you with one - what could be the next expected goals? Of course, this edge may not derive from one individual factor; it could be a combination of a multitude of small factors.

Whether it’s biometrics, tracking data or anything else that is part of this new wave of data analytics, the first step to benefitting from them is being aware of how they can enhance your ability to think probabilistically about an event. It might be performance data from Stats Bomb or an R package from Pinnacle, there is plenty of free data out there to start experimenting with (you can also pay for larger data sets).

Once you have collated your data and identified a potential edge to exploit, only once you have modelled it and thoroughly tested it will you be able to fully benefit from it financially. It’s easy to see positive results and assume it’s based on your skill at finding an edge but if you’re analysing short-term results, this could just as easily be done to luck

Why the way we bet is ever changing

The focus of this article is centred around the thought process that will aid long time success in betting, but it’s also important to consider what might happen to how you actually place a bet as well.

In addition to the changes within betting from a regulation standpoint that are changing where people can bet (the US being an obvious example), there are also plenty of relatively new developments that are changing the experience of placing a bet and even what people bet with.

Cryptocurrencies have exploded in 2018, so much so that some bookmakers now only deal in specific cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. This is yet another example of how suddenly things can change and being prepared and thinking about what might happen in the future is essential if your goal is to make money from betting.

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