Nikos Konstakis, SG Digital: In-play wagering has boosted punter engagement with tennis

With this year’s Wimbledon tournament capturing the attention of a global audience, tennis has continued to grow in popularity among punters. 

Nikos Konstakis, VP Sportsbook Product at SG Digital, explained to SBC the reasons why tennis is a good fit for in-play wagering, and how the new live score product Match HQ can help grow the appeal of the sport.

SBC: Why has tennis been so big in sports betting this year? 

NK: Tennis continues to serve up some breath-taking clashes that grab the attention of bettors across the globe, with the recent enthralling Wimbledon Final a classic example. While the majors bring the finest to the main stage, the supporting tour matches also bring plenty of opportunities for punters to get involved. The in-play experience ensures that tennis has become one of the most popular forms of sports betting in the world and that trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. 

SBC: How much have betting numbers increased for SG Digital operators?

NK: Wimbledon 2019 proved to be one of the most popular tennis tournaments to date, with many of our operator partners reporting a significant rise in turnover during the prestigious event. The reliability and robustness of Scientific Games’ OpenSports platform certainly rose to the occasion, as it managed tennis’ epic clash between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic along with the 2019 Cricket World Cup Final and British Grand Prix, which took place the same day. This year we have offered an unparalleled number of markets per event providing a competitive offering to traders across our operators. 

SBC: Are outrights still the most popular or are there more exotic markets? 

NK: As in-play tennis grows year by year, we see a constant movement towards instant gratification markets. This is similar to the trend we see in other sports, given that the broader digital marketplace is a very competitive ecosystem and punters look for solutions that give them immediate returns or feedback. Undoubtedly, tennis as a sport provides the perfect platform to enable fast and entertaining experiences, and this trend is highly favourable for the popularity of the sport within the sports betting industry.

SBC: Why is tennis such a good fit for in-play wagering?

NK: Tennis is fast; it offers a variety of opportunities and excitement. Matches reach a wide range of markets and ample chances to place a bet, whether it’s after a set ends or when players change ends. This is the perfect mix for in-play betting. Building a great user experience around this has proven to be the right investment, as we are seeing consistent growth in tennis betting and expect it to continue. 

Streams of live matches help to drive in-play wagering, but when these aren’t available, features such as scoreboard widgets are effective in driving interest while keeping punters engaged. Play-by-play animations and statistics can bring the experience to life and have been used for other sports such as football, basketball and baseball to great effect. 

SBC: How accurate can pricing be on tennis matches given so many variables? 

NK: Pricing accuracy is a mixture of reliable data and sophisticated algorithms that can quickly process data. The fact that it is an individual sport where time has only an indirect impact makes the mathematics and the derived mechanics highly different to team sports. 

The exponential growth of tennis popularity the last few years goes hand in hand with the provision of quality, fast and official data to our industry. At the same time our industry has worked hard to perfect the models that power each sport; and for tennis, a very fast sport, our trading team has managed to reach a point where the derived prices are accurate and reflect the trader’s opinion for a match up. 

SBC: Are you concerned about court siding as the popularity of tennis grows?

NK: The overall issue of integrity has been a major discussion point over the years, and it’s imperative that this is managed to ensure that bettors receive the best possible experience. There are encouraging signs around this space, with the Tennis Integrity Unit recently announcing that reports of suspicious betting for the first half of 2019 were the lowest recorded since 2015. However, it’s important that the betting industry and the authorities do everything they can to clamp out this sort of activity and maintain trust and transparency for the end user. 

SBC: Is it realistic to expect tennis to rival the top four sports in the US?

NK: It’s always going to be a tough task for other sports to compete with the levels of wagering that the NFL delivers, but given the interest in the sport already, I’d expect betting on tennis to be an important part of the product mix for U.S. operators. Punters love to wager on their favorite sport stars, and the U.S. has certainly produced some of the world’s best players, including the likes of Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and the Williams sisters, with more coming through the ranks. With the popularity of in-play wagering expected to soar in the States, tennis fits the bill as an entertaining option for bettors. 

SBC: Finally, how will Match HQ boost the betting appeal of the sport?

NK: At Scientific Games, we’re constantly looking at ways to evolve the user experience and our new scoreboards feature, Match HQ, is just one of the ways in which we’re achieving our goal. The play-by-play solution complements the overall betting experience for tennis and will deliver even more excitement for bettors. 

Through Match HQ, punters will be able to access real time information on the latest statistics covering a wide range of live matches, as well as animation to create a visual image for those without access to live streams. We firmly believe this additional feature will provide a match-winning experience for operators and their players. 

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