Keith O’Loughlin, Executive Vice President Sports at OpenBet (part of NYX Gaming Group) and a key speaker at the recent SBC Snooker Forum, on why snooker is such an attractive proposition for punters.
While football and horse racing are most commonly seen as the biggest types of sports betting across the globe, snooker continues to thrive as an attractive event for consumers to place a bet on.
Many of the events are sponsored by bookmakers, and famous faces from within the sport have been quickly snapped up by businesses as brand ambassadors, such is their influence.
And it’s those popular and charismatic characters which grace the word of snooker which are a huge factor in what makes the sport so attractive for punters. From Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan to the “Jester from Leicester” Mark Selby, fans are quick to grow an affinity with certain players and want to back them to win the game’s biggest prizes.
O’Sullivan in particular has such a natural talent that it is no exaggeration to say he is just a genius. When players like this are in a tournament it captivates the mind of spectators and punters alike.
But another key reason why the sport and betting go hand in hand is due to the time-friendly schedules of the tournaments, where there are many snooker matches scheduled during weekdays and do not clash with football, golf or other ‘weekend sports’. Sessions take place across the day, which benefits operators as it fills a gap in their schedules, while fans can enjoy multiple opportunities to bet on matches and frames with far more regularity.
The timing of snooker is critical and yields a great content window. Combined with the amount of streaming and the 50 or so markets available on every single match, snooker is very appealing to consumers.
In recent years, snooker has seen its popularity grow to an international audience, particularly in the far east where the sport is huge. With China’s Ding Junhui and Hong Kong’s Marco Fu inside the top 10 of snooker’s best players in the world, there’s no shortage of fans in the region backing their heroes.
When Dennis Taylor played Steve Davis in the World Championship final of 1985, the viewership was 18.5m, which was a record that lasted many years. Fast forward to 2016, an estimated 210 million people watched the 2016 World Championship on China’s national state broadcaster CCTV, such is China’s growing interest in snooker.
Improving the integrity of the sport
High profile match fixing cases in recent time has brought snooker into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, along with the integrity of the sport come under question.
There is a definite need to clean up the sport, which all stakeholders are well aware of. While the top players of the world enjoy a steady income, lower-ranked individuals could potentially become involved in match-fixing as they are under increased pressure to make a living.
The UK has shown the way to tackle the issue head on, with operators, suppliers such as ourselves and the sport working closely to identify suspicious betting patterns and alert the authorities as soon as possible.
From a trading perspective, snooker trades in a similar way to golf events. It requires a skilled trader to understand the position of the balls, and other factors to estimate the percentage chance of the player winning the frame. It can be a tricky event to provide odds on, particularly in-play as the nature of the sport can change very quickly.
At OpenBet, our flexible and scalable platform is capable of taking huge volumes of bets, along with trading algorithms, which can effectively price up outcomes both pre-match and in-play.
With its global appeal and increased efforts to crack down on foul play, snooker is very much a sport which will continue to be popular with bookmakers and their players.
O’Loughlin appeared at the SBC Snooker Forum alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan and Hilly Ehrlich, CEO – Europe/Asia at BetCris.