Over the last few years, artificial intelligence and machine learning have made the rounds in the public discourse as disruptive, game-changing technologies.
One of the industries where machine learning has seen a tremendous adoption rate is sports betting. In a business sector so reliant on raw data and numbers, it comes as no surprise that sports betting providers have been quick to jump on the machine learning bandwagon.
But what does machine learning in sports betting actually entail, and how can bookies tap into this technology to streamline their operations? That’s the topic we’ll tackle in today’s article – the hows, whys, and where’s of machine learning. Also, how OddsMatrix, the leading sports data provider, uses machine learning and complex algorithms to help bookies scale their business.
Before delving into the topic, we need to define what machine learning is.
In short, machine learning is a subfield of computer science that uses raw data to build algorithms that can learn from said data and improve its output. The algorithms can then make predictions based on past and new data. Which is precisely the goal of any machine learning algorithm – finding a model that is the likeliest to make the best predictions on future outcomes based on past data.
In the case of sports betting, machine learning is used to predict the outcome of matches more accurately than a human analyst (oddsmaker) could physically project. In other words, with machine learning, sports betting operators can build models that maximize their return on events.
For a long time, sports betting (from the bookmaker’s perspective) was seldom automated. Nowadays, the large majority of sports betting platforms employ complex systems that provide real-time updates on a wide range of events in different sports.
This not only helps bookmakers keep track of the nearly infinitely revolving door of data and variables that can influence the outcome of an event, but it also mitigates the risks inherent to operating in a fast-moving business environment such as sports betting. In other words,
machine learning can mean the difference between turning a profit on a bet or losing money.
As we’ve said in previous articles, machine learning models factor in multiple variables when projecting outcomes. Some models use quantitative analysis as the basis for their predictions. Quantitative analysis factors in both team and individual player performance (and the stats derived from these data points) as thresholds to generate predictions.
The user can input, for example, a player’s average pass rate or ball possession. The data points can be even more granular than that – for example, a team’s average away vs. home results, player substitutions, and other tactical and strategic decisions that a manager may decide to implement during the match.
It’s worth mentioning that the use cases for machine learning in sports have gone beyond just betting. Modern sports are highly complex, as most teams have taken to basing their tactical decisions on data.
This doesn’t apply solely to soccer. A study from as early as 2021 (an eternity judging by the rate the technology is evolving) revealed some astounding results in the application of machine learning to sports betting:
The research “analyzes approximately 39,000 professional men’s and women’s tennis matches over the period 2010 through 2019. The used dataset combines player, match, and betting market data and constitutes one of the most comprehensive research undertakings in this sports discipline. ”
The authors found that “prediction accuracy typically reaches not more than about 70% and as such the same level as model-free bookmaker odds alone. A simple baseline approach using just the current rankings to determine the match outcome – without any model – is already correct about 65% of the time.”
While the authors found the 5% difference in prediction accuracy between machine learning and professional oddsmakers negligible, it’s worth noting that the paper was published in 2021, and that seemingly minuscule difference could weigh heavily on the bookmaker’s bottom line, especially for new businesses.
That’s because odds (the main focus of betting operators employing machine learning models) are the bread and butter of this business. Accurate odds are what allow bookmakers to not only offer a fair and transparent service to their customers but to also mitigate the risks inherent to operating in a business as dynamic as sports betting.
There is also something to be said about machine learning models employed by bettors. As bettors are becoming more tech-savvy in response to the dynamism of the industry – the machine learning algorithms used by sports betting operators being open source also helps -bookmakers must stay ahead of the curve and ensure that the same technology so vital to the streamlining of their operations won’t be used against them.
Data used to be the domain of experts, but nowadays, there’s an entire world of cheap, consumer-oriented services that provide digestible, user-friendly formatted data packages. The bettors then use this data to develop strategies and determine event outcomes with the same ease as betting operators.
While the “democratization” of this process is healthy for the industry, betting operators may find themselves in the difficult position of having to constantly one-up their tech-savvy customers in a bid to balance the books.
So what’s the solution? Well, for one, bookmakers need not undertake this endeavor alone. Sports betting data providers such as OddsMatrix exist for this exact purpose – to provide bookmakers with the technology and framework to make their businesses more efficient (more on this later).
So far, we’ve established that sports betting operators have only to gain by implementing some degree of machine learning into their operations.
Now, let’s delve into some great use cases for machine learning in sports betting.
We’ve talked a lot about how bookies set odds on this blog, so we won’t cover the intricacies of odd setting in this article, too. The bottom line is that odds setting is one of the biggest pain points when running a sports book. How does one set odds, and based on what data? How can one differentiate between quality and trash data? What variables are genuinely likely to influence the outcome of a particular event?
Machine learning and AI have come a long way to covering these gaps, with data providers such as OddsMatrix being one of the best solutions for bookies looking to streamline their operations.
The way it works is that OddsMatrix integrates the necessary data directly into the platform. Bookies can then access the data and incorporate it into their own workflows, using it to set and adjust odds based on market trends. The benefit is twofold. For one, bookmakers can access a constant flux of accurate odds data. Secondly, it helps bookmakers remain competitive and attract and retain more customers.
In other words, by using a reputable data provider like OddsMatrix, bookmakers can rest assured that they have accurate and reliable data to base their odds on and maintain the trust of their customers.
Previously marketed towards a certain demographic of hobbyists, sports betting has since become more diverse than ever. However, the audience being more varied is one thing – reaching and targeting it properly is another.
Beyond using machine learning to automate the repetitive side of their business, sportsbooks can use this technology to overhaul their marketing, sales, and content functions. Sportsbooks can, for example, employ machine learning models to analyze customer journeys on betting websites, accounting for their betting patterns, preference for a sport or team, and appetite (or lack thereof) for risk and betting types.
Sportsbooks can then take that data and personalize a bettor’s experience to reflect their preferences and personality better. The business can do things like placing banner advertisements and promotional content reflecting the bettor’s background and values. Most crucially, they can also create personalized incentives to encourage customers to bet more. Or, in the case of churned or inactive customers, they can create incentives to bring them back to their business – and thus prevent them from switching to the competition.
With machine learning, the possibilities of what a sportsbook can do in terms of customer retention and marketing are nearly endless.
OddsMatrix is fully aware of the importance customer retention holds in the day-to-day running of a sportsbook and provides features designed specifically for this area.
In this respect, OddsMatrix has a feature called “Player Profiling.” It’s exactly what it sounds – OddsMatrix takes the data generated by user activity and creates player profiles. This feature helps bookies classify players according to betting behavior and profitability and identify patterns. Then, they can decide if said patterns are conducive to fraudulent behavior and take the necessary measures.
Bookmakers have to use many tools and solutions to keep up – and the number of solutions employed can be overwhelming and negatively affect the business. One tool for data, one for customer acquisition – it all adds up sooner rather than later.
OddsMatrix offers APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and other integration tools that allow bookmakers to customize the data and features they receive, ensuring they only pay for the services they need. This also makes integrating OddsMatrix data and tools easier with existing betting platforms or software.
Another area of the sports betting business that can be a pain for bookies is event creation and scheduling. As we said earlier, the more diverse the customer base becomes, the higher the need for customized experiences. Automating these initiatives is a must, as doing all this manually is logistically impossible.
Enter OddsMatrix. Our suite of automation tools helps bookmakers automate the process of creating and scheduling events for betting. Day-to-day operations can be automated, such as generating event listings and setting opening and closing times for bets.
Security has always been a great concern for the sports betting industry. Due to the nature of the business, it’s an obvious target of criminal elements and fraudsters looking to make a quick buck by exploiting vulnerabilities.
OddsMatrix, the leading betting technology provider, has a suite of anti-fraud and anti-cheating tools prebaked into the platform that is fully automated.
OddsMatrix includes advanced security systems, such as robust encryption protocols to protect sensitive data and access controls to prevent unauthorized parties from illegally obtaining said data.
Secondly, OddsMatrix’s security infrastructure is built with proactivity in mind. Its sophisticated fraud detection and prevention tools are meant to assist bookies in identifying and managing fraudulent activity before it becomes a problem.
Thus, by helping operators build safer and more reliable businesses, technology has, naturally, led to a safer and more reliable experience for regular bettors, too.
OddsMatrix, the leading sports data provider, makes every bookmaker’s job as easy and automated as possible. OddMatrix provides bookies with accurate odds, security tools, and solutions to retain old customers and acquire new ones, and expand into new markets.