automation, atlas-iac

Sergei Efimenko, Atlas-IAC: Sports betting in the nascent steps of its automation journey

Sergei Efimenko, Chief Executive of Atlas-IAC, provides an in-depth breakdown of how automation has disrupted all active components of modern sports betting beyond simple price alignment.

Efimenko warns sports betting operators to prepare for the next wave of AI led automated innovations, that will improve the customers experience but complicate industry tech stacks. Sergei Efimenko, Atlas-IAC

SBC – Thanks for speaking to SBC, Sergei – on the topic of automation’s progres role in sports betting, how would you respond to cynics who may describe this as more of a battle of buzzwords in comparison to the machine learning of other industries?

Sergei Efimenko – To some degree I once shared that cynicism, which is one of the main reasons we set up Atlas-IAC in the first place! I’m happy to say, though, that even our sector, which has traditionally been slow to adopt the advances in tech of other industries, has made huge strides in the past 18 months. 

I’m happier still to relate that Atlas’ innovation in this area has us at the forefront of disruption in what has historically been a copycat space, too often tied to cautious thinking or legacy systems.

SBC – To what degree is the automation of trading rooms and marketing already there?

SE – That’s a done deal. It’s more a question of when it comes into full effect, and to what extent. This naturally depends on the tools any operator has at their disposal. Atlas-IAC is in the vanguard of this charge towards complete automation. Indeed, we’ve staked our business model on it.

For speed and accuracy, the algorithms win by an order of magnitude every time, and the gap is only widening. This isn’t to say that the role of the trader is dead – it’s simply evolved. For now, sharp punters can still sometimes beat the trading tools, so manual intervention remains important. 

The intentions of carpet-baggers and clients ranging from shrewd to clueless can still be best demystified by a trained trading eye. As in every intelligent endeavour, though, AI systems will surpass us all one day.

SBC – Where do different sports stand on the road to automation?

SE – They are, although the gaps have narrowed. The key differentiator is any sport’s complexity, or how tricky it is to get a trading handle on the key variables that impact performance, activity, and scoring. 

Football was once leagues apart not because of its popularity, but because an absolute knowledge of these variables is far easier to ascertain. Tennis has caught up quickly, although a lack of reliability can still arise when demotivated “courtsiders” or even match umpires react slowly or poorly to feed the scoring system.

Ultimately, if you set the automated dials correctly, above all in-play, there should never be a need for a market suspension around a penalty, a breakpoint, an NFL coach’s challenge, even a Hawk-Eye review. There should always be a live price. However, it’s a trickier task in other sports. Take horse racing where riddles like sectional timings, stride length, and horse heart rate are far harder to solve. 

Some in the industry are working on it, however, while Atlas-IAC’s platform, which is built by and managed by some of the sharpest trading minds in the sector, has all other major sports covered and outperforms our rivals for market suspensions that negatively affect operators’ bottom lines. It’s another aspect that positively delineates us from the competition, wherever you set your scene on the global map.

SBC – Does the trading desk still have a role in the future?

SE – For now, of course. However, its role will necessarily change in step with the ground it concedes to automation. Essentially, though, its position as the nerve centre of a trading operation need not alter that much.

It can still prove the assembly point of all these progressive feeds: advanced pricing, accurate modelling, scoring data, team and player updates, the weight of money, even opinion. 

Corralling all these inputs and distilling precise answers for risk management and trading strategies remains the challenge – whether a human being is at the controls, or merely overseeing the machine-learning equipment. Indeed, fresh services can sometimes emerge unexpectedly out of lightning progress.

Verifiable tracking is one such new test for the trading desk, but it’s also given it a new job as an integrity tool. Refining these tools and counting out the vagaries of human misdeeds and misinformation is the task for the brightest minds allied to the finest AI systems.

SBC – Why and how is Atlas well-positioned in this arena?

SE – We provide our own MTA (Managed Trading Service) and strongly believe in its advantages over any competitor, be they established or challenger. Our highly experienced trading team is backed up by a powerful and configurable Trading Platform which takes into account thousands of factors and data-points across sport, event, market, time (and much more) to deliver the best MTS available. 

Our in-depth MTS algorithms and associated tools are then cross-referenced with the data/profile of each user to ensure that we are serving the most appropriate odds at any given time. Not only can we set different pricing strategies per competition/event, we can also fully customise individual sportsbook instances to highlight/order key competitions and events all from the same back office system. 

Automation of our evolving algorithms constitute the cornerstone of our MTS but we also understand a partner may desire anything from total outsourcing of management (cue our “risk free sportsbook” solution, already popular in emerging markets, where we underwrite any downside) to specific elements of control over the sportsbook. We seamlessly achieve this versatility with event/market odds and limits configurable per partner from our back office.

SBC – Will the suppliers multiply in this landscape?

SE – On the contrary, I believe this will prove a diminishing game of musical chairs as opposed to an expanding conga line, as the battle intensifies and only the strongest and most agile survive. 

Knowing your punter through these AI systems will become increasingly straightforward. And not just for trading, for marketing techniques, too – making it easier to bonus, restrict or bar. At Atlas-IAC, we’ve dedicated ourselves to reengineering tired industry methodologies through our game-changing platform. 

A comprehensive solution, managing everything from raw sports data through to the user interface, is for nothing if it’s not underpinned by the most advanced AI trading tools and CRM around. 

This is what sets Atlas-IAC apart and explains why our trading team now manages sportsbooks for some 50+ brands and counting. This is a dog-eat-dog environment where only the fastest and most flexible and responsive will survive.

SBC – What newer technology will be brought to bear in the trading arena? What does AI mean for trading, more specifically?

SE – AI will undoubtedly be the definitive driver of growth for operators over the next 12 months and beyond. You’ll have seen the hyperbolic movies on the rise of the robots, but artificial intelligence for sports betting and igaming is no less transformative.

Machine-learning promises generalizable tools that can adapt and improve their own programmatic code, giving operators the edge on the competition and a deep understanding of their customers. 

For example, there’s an old adage in trading that the further ahead of an event you bet, the wiser you are likely to be as a punter. Needless to say, that’s a generalisation with many exceptions, but it does explain why operators relax their limits closer to the start time of any event (when most unknowns are known) so it’s harder to steal an advantage. 

That said, the latest AI tech can probabilistically drill down on these “tells” (e.g. time/size of the bet, location, gender) across the board and effectively profile your customer within a few trades. It’s a similar story with marketing and trading tools. Bonus abusers get weeded out, high rollers who got lucky early on get accommodated.

After all, we are creatures of habit. Whereas AI is simply a bigger-brained beast. As the trading algorithms kick in, the client-specific marketing strategy must inevitably follow, paving the way to a truly personalised experience for the punter. For any operator, the dream is to know their consumers from log-in. With Atlas’s unique AI-powered platform and its accompanying tools, that dream is now a palpable reality.

The Atlas-IAC team are currently attending the  SBC Summit Latinoamérica at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Miami, where newly appointed Head of Sales for LatAm and Iberia Eddie Morales has been tasked with showcasing the firm’s product range.

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