The XFL will be venturing in uncharted waters with its decision to discuss betting lines and gambling during their broadcasts. This comes at a time where we’ve seen technology quickly change the gambling world for both the players and the bookmakers. With the 24-hour sports news cycle and the breaking of news on social media, the days of bookmakers getting the news first from their “sources” is all but over. News continues to travel faster than ever and we are now starting to see that bettors and the bookmakers are getting the news at the same time.
Now, it becomes a race to see who can act first.
Simulations transform the bookie’s role
This is not the only way new technology is changing the gambling industry. The emergence of models and simulations has become extremely common among bookmakers. Bookmakers no longer sit in a room debating on what a spread or total should be set at, and then adjusting to how the players bet. This art has been replaced by computers going through lines of data and code to come to a conclusion on what the lines should be, and how they move. As a result, we are seeing bookmakers open with stronger lines that move significantly less during an event, than in the past. The great thing about these simulation models from the bookmaker’s perspective is that new parameter and data can continually be added to the equation, as a result, opening lines will get sharper and sharper.
While we have not seen AI or Machine learning impact the way we currently make lines, we are using it in other areas of the business to accomplish other tasks and are seeing great results so far. We also believe it is just a matter of time before we start using AI and machine learning tools when it comes to setting the lines.
XFL will use odds to tell a story
It will be interesting to see how the XFL announcers will use the resources available to them when commentating on a game. The XFL has stated that for now they will only be dealing with pregame lines, but are open to using updated lines in the future. While solely focusing on pregame lines will be somewhat limiting at the beginning, announcers will still be able to talk about line moves and more importantly explain to the audience why those lines moves are occurring, in real time. Did a key injury move a favorite to be an underdog? Has poor weather moved the total down by 3 points? There is a real desire from the betting public to understand why and how the lines are set, and to this end the XFL can tell a story instead of just stating what the odds are on the game.
Live lines are the future
I believe that there’s real value in being able to openly discuss the lines, however, there is more relevance in analyzing the live game odds. Live in-play betting has seen a huge increase in the last 5 years and that has to do with how easy it is to access the odds. The smartphone and tablet era has made it easy to place a bet from your couch, while you watch the game with your friends. This same technology can be used to feed the odds to the announcer during the game, and then transmitted to the audience in the same way. Not everyone has their phone out during the whole game placing bets, but when a player is updated by the XFL announcers on a current line, they are only a couple of clicks away from placing their own bet.
The future of sports betting
The days where players had to get up off the couch and go to a computer to place a bet are over. Anyone of age has the technology to place bets from anywhere, at any time, even in the middle of a live game.
The XFL is making a bold move to give the viewer the information they really want. A significant percentage of people watching a game have action on it, and it only makes sense that they talk about the most up to date odds being offered both before and during the game. The real question is – will other, more mainstream sports leagues, pick up on this trend and also talk about odds during their broadcasts?
With all that said, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on our sports offering and therefore our year-on-year numbers for the last week are nowhere close to each other. We have noticed an expected decrease in all sports betting across the board. However, the players are always looking for new things to bet on, so our challenge moving forward is finding what additional markets we can offer and what kind of unique props we can post on a daily basis to engage with players.
Pat Morrow is the head oddsmaker at Bovada, a leading online sportsbook.