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Sportsbooks: what odds will you give me?

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Sportsbooks are now pricing up a vast array of bet requests via Twitter, where serving up bespoke and personalised markets is now a key battleground for operators.

With more and more sportsbooks now pricing up a vast array of bet requests via Twitter, serving up bespoke and personalised markets is now a battleground for customers, where the competition will only intensify with the new football season on the way and a World Cup looming.

Julian Rogers

One of the most hotly anticipated fights in boxing history will take place in Las Vegas next month when the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. steps into the ring with flamboyant Irish UFC star Conor McGregor.

The bout is expected to be one of the sporting highlights of the summer in terms of betting turnover for operators.

As well as the match odds and usual supplementary markets, Paddy Power has a smorgasbord of markets on its website that have been requested by individuals on Twitter using the hashtag #WhatOddsPaddy.

For example, you can back Mayweather to win by knock out or TKO total knock out and the last punch to be to the body. That’s 9/4.

Or perhaps you fancy Mayweather to be knocked down in Rounds 1-3 but go on to win on points at 16/1.

Even less likely is the 200/1 on both pugilists to be knocked out simultaneously or 500/1 for McGregor to throw a kick and the referee to be knocked down by a punch.

These kinds of unique proposition bets are gaining significant traction across the industry.

Hashtag marketing
Besides Paddy Power, Sky Bet has #RequestABet, BetVictor has #PriceItUp while William Hill’s offering is dubbed #YourOdds.

The London-listed firm recently supported #YourOdds with a 30-second TV advert extolling the virtues of being able to “create and bet on your own markets”.

“We price up the vast majority of requests [around 84%], though there are a few that are either obscure or in bad taste that we wouldn’t price up,” explains William Hill spokesperson ’s Rupert Adams.

The appeal of these markets has snowballed in recent months. June’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus was William Hill’s busiest sporting event to date for #YourOdds with 1,200 bet requests and over 93,000 bets struck.

Later that month, William Hill took its two millionth #YourOdds bet.

“It is a growing market and continues to grow,” says Adams. “The key is delivering [odds] to customers swiftly, and to ensure we are able to do that we are expanding the team. Personalisation of betting is the way forward and our customer’s’ appetite for #YourOdds shows no signs of letting up.”

Customers also don’t tend to back at short odds or the more obscure long shots, although the biggest pay out to date is £174,000 on a 500/1-shot football bet (253 wagers ranging from 3p to £10).

William Hill’s data reveals that the most popular price range is 6/1 to 14/1 while the average stake is £8.70.

And #YourOdds hasn’t led to the cannibalisation of traditional market revenues as punters tend to have a flutter on requested bet markets besides football’s 1X2 and athe like, according to Adams.

BetVictor introduced #PriceItUp in late 2016 following demand from customers and the fact competitors offered these bespoke markets.

Eoin Ryan, head of sportsbook product, says the Gibraltar-based operator put “serious investment behind the [in-house] product” and that it has been the biggest growth market since the introduction of ‘both teams to score’ a few years ago.

He also reveals that the most popular football market requests involve cards, corners and goals, which means there is usually something happening on the pitch relevant to a customer’s bet.

“We are in the entertainment business, and I think there’s a bit of punter fatigue setting in when it comes to the massive array of markets that a typical algorithm can churn out. You may well be able to offer 300 markets on a football match, but your customers are typically only really interested in 20 of those and the rest just tend to get in the way at times.

“Request markets offer the punter something new and interesting and, importantly, customers enjoy betting on these markets and love the social interaction that goes along with it.”

Bet immediacy
Indeed, the immediacy of Twitter makes it the ideal platform to help facilitate these markets.

Furthermore, engaging with a trader, albeit indirectly, and receiving odds for a bet you have devised can be a compelling and empowering proposition. It feels much more like a personal, one-to-one service.

For operators, these offerings are a strong customer engagement tool and another means of driving traffic to the site or app. A customer may brag to friends about the unique bet a bookie has laid, which gives the brand a boost. Bet request markets are also a way to differentiate a sportsbook product in what is a cutthroat, commoditised sector, particular in mature markets like the UK.

Then there’s the tidy margin factored into the odds; probably much more than what you will find with the 105% books on the main 1X2 football markets. 

As it stands though, pricing up requests from Twitter, replying with the odds and uploading the markets to the website is a manual and potentially time-consuming process around high-profile events.

The question is whether some – if not all the steps on the operator’s side – could be automated, possibly with the help of algorithms?

Ryan responds: “Yes, it is manual and so you do come to a point where you need to consider some level of automation because it simply isn’t possible to scale the offering up without technology assisting you.

“The challenge is to retain as much of what customers currently love about the product – namely, varied and interesting bets, the ability to request a bet and socially interact with us – whilst automating certain elements that can be done more efficiently by using technology.”

BetVictor is currently working on scaling up and speeding up #PriceItUp, yet William Hill says the markets are so tailored that it would be difficult to automate its service.

“We actually value the interaction with customers,” says Adams, adding that the end-to-end process for single-match requests only takes a few minutes during quiet periods.

Streamlining bespoke bets
Meanwhile, Regulus Partners’ Mark Israney – a sportsbook advisor who has held senior trading positions at Ladbrokes, Boylesports and Stan James – says: “If these markets do indeed increase in popularity, we can safely assume that operators will do everything that they can to streamline the process. However, the automation element is likely to involve routing the request to the right compiler’s screen and creating the markets in the database ready for publishing.

“The compilation process – and indeed the resulting and settlement process – often can’t be automated due to the types of markets that are requested.”

What is pretty much certain is that demand for these types of markets is sure to intensify with the football season kicking off shortly followed by a World Cup next summer.

Sky Bet is credited with being the pioneer of these markets with #RequestABet, but it’s quickly becoming a congested space. And it probably won’t be long before more companies, including Tier 2 outfits, throw their hats into the ring.

Moreover, Ryan is excited about how theses services could be iterated and improved in the near future.

“The obvious next steps probably involve automating the bet-building functionality, allowing a request to be submitted during in-play betting and enabling cash out. Those items alone involve a huge amount of work, but could be very exciting.”

He continues: “There’s also some interesting developments in the area of AI, chat bots and natural language recognition software and these could be very interesting for this product’s development. Here at BetVictor we’re thinking 12 to 18 months ahead and planning for a lot of growth with this product.”

Related articles: iGB Market Monitor – June 2017 (paywall)
Online sports betting: all change in marketing model (paywall)
Paddy Power secures broadcasting deal with SIS
Italy iGaming Dashboard – July 2017: PokerStars takes the lead (paywall)


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