James Watson – Betradar – Challenging Dynamic…bringing real in-play betting to esports!

James Watson, Sportradar
James Watson, Sportradar

Following yesterday’s announcement by Betradar that it had launched a full in-play betting offering for esports markets in partnership with Dojo Madness. SBC caught up with James Watson, Head of eSports at Sportradar AG, to discuss the project intricacies and difficulties of  bringing live betting elements to eSports markets.


SBC: Hi James, thanks for the interview and congratulations on launching your product. Can you detail to SBC readers, Betradar’s approach to bringing live betting to esports markets?

James Watson: I don’t think we’re convinced about the current live offering out there in the market. Whether it’s being done by another service provider or operators in-house there’s still a big missing element in esports live betting.

Everyone sees it as the future but nobody has “cracked” it. Whether that’s deliberately cutting corners or naivety from those operators or a combination of both – I’m not too sure. All we’re really certain of is that things can be done much better.

SBC: How important is direct access to the data through the game’s API for being able to provide true live-betting? Is that the main challenge?

JW: You’re right – it’s not as clear-cut as tapping into public data and we wouldn’t be able to be in this position without our ESL relationship ticking over in the background. That relationship, along with DreamHack and ESEA that come alongside it provide us with that extra layer of access to live data – particularly in the CS:GO space where direct server access is very common.

Valve have no protection over privately hosted matches which is unlike Dota (another topic all together). For CS:GO, ESL and various other tournament organisers have protection of that data and public facing sources – whether it be HLTV live sports solution/Twitch – are all delayed. Sometimes by 30 seconds, sometimes by several minutes.

The triple threat combination of the Sportradar expertise in the betting space, the DOJOMadness expertise in the esports space and the ESL truly real-time live data puts us in a strong and powerful position to offer our clients an unrivalled true and real-time in-play service.

SBC: Bringing in-play betting to the esports market, Betradar has partnered with Dojo Madness, why was this partnership needed in order to effectively execute the project?

JW: DOJO are also a data-driven company, they traditionally deliver B2C visualisation / training applications. During the process of developing those various tools and consumer products they have sifted through a hell of a lot of data.

I don’t have the number to hand but it’s in the billions of sets of data that they’ve analysed. They’re using their expertise in esports data to help develop live models for us to offer to our clients through our live odds technology. They have been doing an awful lot in the background here.

Modelling esports is not simple. We recognised from day 1 that it would take a lot of time and commitment to focus on. A game of League of Legends might have several hundred times more data points than a game of soccer or tennis and the number of permutations you have with hero picks alone in Dota 2 runs into the quadrillions.

It’s by no means a simple process and DOJO are clear cut experts in this area. They have some super sharp minds working behind the scenes there and we feel that their knowledge in the pace really marries quite well with our history and knowledge in the betting space.

SBC: How do you see your partnership progressing with Dojo…what new products and services will your team be looking to launch?

JW: In the next couple of weeks we’re going live with our first product, which is our CS:GO live odds market extension – or turbo-charged live odds as I like to call it. 

It’s designed to really change the way that the betting industry looks at live betting in CS:GO in particular. Because of our relationship with ESL here we’re able to offer far more granular betting opportunities to our clients.

We can offer round-by-round betting for example, something that doesn’t exist in the world at the moment. We think that’s going to be the game-changer. That’s not saying that the DOJO partnership is limited to that, it’s an 8 year initial term partnership. We want to position this as a long-term partnership with an initial term of 8 years.

SBC: How granular can you go? Are we looking at a point where it’s perfect spot-on and updates as quickly as “next-kill” for example?

JW: If you look back at how providers tried to do this 6-8 months ago, they tried to do extremely granular next kill markets, next Dragon markets, next Roshan markets and round-by-round betting. What we’ve very quickly seen is that the markets have now been stripped back completely.

Now what we see is a majority suspended market with the occasional two way market thrown in when they can. I think that’s recognition from the providers and bookmakers that there are major data concerns. They’re starting to think “hang-on”, we’re getting burned a bit by some smart cookies as this data isn’t properly live.

What we’re doing with DOJO is trying to open that back up again – specifically in places where we have the fastest data. Because we know we have the fastest data, we can be more confident in our offering. In CS:GO we can offer round-by-round, but I don’t think we will ever reach the kill-by-kill level because I think it’s just too fast. With bet delays the odds would change too much before you can get the bet on in time. Certainly in LoL and Dota though we see as it may be possible. As I said, though, the first products you’ll see in the market will be our CS:GO product. It’s where we have the biggest USP in the market and the one where we believe the current bookmaker offering is the weakest. Considering what happened with skins we also feel it’s the market with the biggest potential for turnover and that’s where we see the future. 

SBC: When a new game title is launched, and it becomes available as an esports – how quickly do you think odds can become available?

JW: If you compare esports to traditional sports (a comparison I generally steer away from) in the way that the life a product develops in the betting world, it takes a long time for people to be very confident in the live betting market for a traditional sport.

It’s only in esports that I’ve seen a new title released, equivalent to a whole new sport coming to fruition and then live betting becoming available within the first six months. It’s crazy but that’s just the reality. We’ve seen some operators enter the Overwatch in-play at the moment which for us is interesting as the game structure is still up in the air.

Maybe it’s a case of jumping the gun again by operators. Personally I would like to wait to see how a game title matures and how tournament structures are setup before we throw resources into modelling things. I’m going to hope that Blizzard look towards it in the future and makes the data accessible. The publishers know that data is key and we would expect it to be the one of their key considerations going forward.

Betradar’s commercial team has detailed that demos of its eSports live betting product are now available to industry stakeholders (demo bookings – [email protected] )


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