Jeevan Jeyaratnam: Abelson Odds: No Niche… Recognising the thriving role of stats betting

From shots on target to player tackles, stats betting and data-driven markets have deeply enriched the matchday offering that sportsbooks provide over the last few years.

Speaking to SBC Leaders, Abelson Odds’  Chief Operations Officer Jeevan Jeyaratnam shines a light on how stats betting has evolved from a unique feature of sportsbook markets to an integral part of any operator’s offering…

SBC: Firstly, how important and integral has stats betting become to a sportsbook’s offering? 

Jeevan Jeyaratnam: You have only to glance at the landing pages of leading UK bookmakers to see the importance of player and team-related stats bets. Bet Builders have become an increasingly profitable wager and their appeal is driven by stat-rich elements. 

Pre-canned bet builders have proven a gateway into this emerging trend, and there are plenty of operators who have dedicated resources to making the same-game acca as simple to join as possible. Without player markets, especially, these can lack originality and appear rather dull. If we accept that we are part of the entertainment industry, then the notion of building a narrative is front and centre; player stat markets are a vital component of that framework.

Localisation is another key reason for the rise in interest in player stat markets. We’ve seen examples of this in our own business. As a client moves into a new territory, we have seen requests for us to add goal scorers from the local leagues, offering the opportunity to wager on teams and players that the customer base is familiar with. We have recently added Cypriot, Colombian and Chilean goalscorers for this very purpose.

SBC: We have seen the growth in ‘shot betting’, what makes this type of market so appealing to a punter? 

JJ: With many of the more granular markets, like tackles and passes, it is far harder for the punter to keep up with the tallies. There are widgets on most sites to help, but it is a better experience if you can quantify the numbers yourself. Shots are one such market where this is possible.

The other adage is that people want to see action, shots and goals are correlated and punters love to bet on goals, so it makes sense that they would want to bet on shots, which occur with greater frequency.

There is also the subtle push from operators, because from a compilation point-of-view, there is more data available, and therefore confidence, with the pricing. Therefore, pushing customers towards adding these markets into their bet builders is sensible.

Jeevan Jeyaratnam – Abelson Odds

SBC: Have there been any emerging trends in stats betting over the past year? Was there an uptake during Euro 2020 and the Copa America or did markets remain steady?

JJ: I can’t comment on bookmaker turnover during the big international tournaments, I’m not privy to that information, but certainly during the Euros there was a push towards providing more options for customers. It’s easier to handle this when there is a single key focus, like a major summer competition. Of course, it helps when squads are defined and named, as they are during these international competitions.

The trend is, very slowly, moving from offering only the “over” portion of the bet to offering two-way lines. This is an expected natural evolution as suppliers and operators continue to gather data and tweak algorithms, affording them the confidence to offer a more rounded and differentiated product. 

Two-way markets require much sharper pricing acumen, a critical ingredient if operators are to offer realistic cash-out opportunities for players. If you don’t know the “true” probability for a player’s expected tackles and you decide to offer a defensively priced one-way market, cash-out calculations are likely to be favourable to the punter, ebbing away operator value. It is integral to the whole business to understand the “true” price of any selection at any given juncture. Pinnacle, for example, has built its entire business on this philosophy.

SBC: As stats markets become intricate and specific, what are some of the challenges that could arise? 

JJ: One of the bigger challenges is ensuring punters are aware of the status of their bet at any given point. OPTA has some great data widgets that embed on to bookmakers’ sites, updating in real-time.

The more granular a metric, the greater the chance that the live tally could be adjusted post-match, this is especially true of passing metrics. To provide the best possible experience for users, there needs to be some confidence that the bet has won and won’t be adjusted following a post-match review by the scouting team. The balancing act between speed and accuracy is crucial for providing increased lifetime value for bookmakers and entertainment for punters.

SBC: Do you think we will see more ‘Price Boosts’ around stats betting and how fruitful an engagement tool do you believe that could be for operators? 

JJ: ‘Price Boosts’ are part and parcel of a marketing team’s arsenal, so I am sure that they will continue with this approach, although whether they provide longer-term value for the sportsbook is open to scrutiny.

Cleverly, during the Euros, one of the exchanges was opening markets on the price boosts that other bookmakers were promoting. This provided a haven for those wishing to lay off the other side of the price boosted bet. There was no shortage of liquidity on the lay side because users were laying at the right price. The fixed odds book was taking the negative expected value (EV) and therefore risk, while the layer on the exchange was gaining positive EV and in theory, would profit over the longer term. 

SBC: Is there room for integration with fantasy sports and stats betting? Could a combined approach between the two strengthen engagement with a new demographic of punters? 

JJ: This has been the holy grail for operators for some time. In the USA, pre-PASPA, fantasy sports carried huge weight. Without legal sports betting in place, it is easy to see why the sports and stats mad US customers took to it so vehemently. Over in Europe, where a legalised sports betting framework has existed in many territories for decades, trying to convert the fan the other way has proved much harder. 

That said, as player markets become more intricate, and the advance of bet builders allow a real narrative to be spun, the gap between the two verticals has become smaller. Scout Gaming is a good example of a business that has done a very good job of helping to bridge the gap.

SBC: What do you believe will be the next evolution of stats betting and do you think it could become a more prevalent part of the sportsbook offering? 

JJ: The next step will be to transition fully to a two-way offering that can be wagered in-play with cash-out. Uptime is also very important. Last week, PointsBet’s quant arm, Banach, managed to maintain totals and money line wagering through the lifecycle of the game without suspension. 

The user experience is greatly enhanced by allowing markets to remain open longer, it becomes a far more fluid experience. While it will be some time before we can include all stats, especially player stats, in this type of free-flowing offering, it should at least be an aim.

SBC: In terms of the demographic of punter that engages with stats betting markets, have you noticed it leans towards a more casual or experienced bettor? 

JJ The more granular player stats markets are still very much at an embryonic phase of development; therefore operators are very cautious as to stake limits and are very quick to restrict accounts that appear to have an edge. 

While the punter has the choice to bet only the markets they want to, a sportsbook has to offer prices on nearly everything, so this leads to a safety-first approach. All this means is that these types of bets are predominantly aimed at the recreational punter, and really intended as inputs into bet builders. As the markets evolve, we can expect operators to have more confidence in their pricing partners and maybe stake limits will begin to increase

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The featured interview is taken from Issue-19 of SBC Leaders Magazine (March 2022). Click on the below tab to read the latest edition of SBC Leaders. 

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