Dave McDowell, FSB: Hitting the bullseye during the global sports blackout

FSB Tech CEO Dave McDowell (pictured) discusses taking the Remote Darts League (RDL) right through from concept to sourcing players and event production, how he hopes it will open the industry’s eyes to the power of FSB’s data automation platform, and why the RDL has quickly found a place within the darts community – with opportunities for both male and female players.

SBC: Can you just explain FSB’s part in the RDL launch, FarawaySports and any other supporting parties?

DM: When it looked like we were going to lose live sports, we discussed a number of responses. One of those was to create the RDL, while other responses were to add feeds for Table Tennis and to source more esports and virtual sports content for our platform.  

Creating the RDL included everything from concept to sourcing players and producing the events, as well as building the technology to collect data and trade the sports. 

We felt that the optics of a sports betting supplier producing its own events could be challenging from an integrity point of view, so we created the FarawaySports production house and hired Kevin Dale to independently run the events to ensure the highest possible levels of integrity. We also informed the Gambling Commission of our involvement before the first tournament started.   

Given the concerns over customer well-being at the start of the pandemic lockdown period, we ensured that the content was available to end users for free on the YouTube Live platform and we did not promote any betting brands within the streaming content. 

We are grateful to GeoComply for participating in our second tournament as the title sponsor, which has helped us to bring the second tournament to market.

The FarawaySports team are now running a full RFP process with the data/video distribution industry in the hopes of securing a lasting place in the sporting calendar.  

SBC: We understand that, for the first time, FSB’s own statistical model was used to produce the darts odds. How accurate and robust has this proved given that it must have been completed in a maximum of 2/3 weeks?

DM: 70% of the wagers placed on the FSB platform are on odds that we have compiled ourselves with our own algorithmic pricing models. These models cover football, racing, golf and now darts and we are continuing to expand our capabilities in this area. 

So, while this was the first time we produced a darts model, we have a strong quant team and have been running our own models for over a decade now. The models proved to be very robust, in particular for the fast-moving in-play markets.

SBC: Is this a one-off in terms of modelling your own prices for the sport? Or has it opened your eyes to doing more external to your normal data feed suppliers?

DM: I have always believed that a sports betting operator needs to be in control of their data. In fact, I published a LinkedIn article on this back in 2014 stating that the industrial revolution was coming and explained how data feeds were being used to drive in-play odds compilation algorithms.  

For the more strategically important sports, it is critical to operate your own odds compilation algorithms. For the longer tail of sports, it is important to have access to accurate odds from the best industry suppliers. I would always encourage operators to work with a wide range of data suppliers to curate the best possible product for their audience.

At FSB, we have built an entire data automation platform that allows us to aggregate data feeds from across the market, run our own models and push a single stream of live odds into the sportsbook.  

Our intention with the RDL was to showcase the power of this data automation platform as we are now selling this technology to enterprise customers. Rather than having our own eyes opened, we did the project so that we could open more eyes across the industry about how modern technology can be used to maintain the right balance between control and efficiency. 

SBC: What has it taught you about the challenges of collecting live data from sporting events? Assuming you are the sole feed provider (with no-one to fall back on), have you had any periods of downtime or long market suspensions?

DM: Data collection is an altogether different challenge. I know there are companies making exciting investments into automating the data collection process with vision systems in other sports, but for the RDL we simply had one person typing in the scores as they came through the video and a second person (in a different location) checking the scores.

Mistakes will always be made in a manual process, so we put a lot of effort into understanding the types of mistakes that could be made and giving the team tools to recover from those mistakes.

Given that the players were taking place in different venues there were a few outages caused by local internet issues, but thankfully these were infrequent. The technology, however, worked perfectly.

SBC: And finally, the Finals night for the RDL is scheduled for today (Monday 8 June); but what is the longer term future for the concept?

DM: The RDL has quickly found a place within the darts community and, in part, started out by filling a void left by the BDO. We were also approved for betting in the USA by several state regulators and are working with the World Darts Federation to gain recognition of our tournaments for rankings.

We believe there is an exciting opportunity to offer a range of international tournaments with players who might not regularly meet one another due to issues in geography. For example, the second tournament featured games being played between players as far apart as the US and New Zealand.   

We also believe there is a real opportunity to raise awareness for female players, with the second RDL tournament featuring four female players who were clearly being supported by the community during the live events. 

As I mentioned earlier, the FarawaySports team are running an RFP process for data and video distribution to the gaming industry, and this cash flow is critical to the future of the league. 

They are also looking for more sponsors and there is an appetite to make the RDL a permanent fixture if we can get the economics to stack up. If you are interested in participating in the distribution or sponsorship then I would urge you to get in touch with the FarawaySports team.

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