The Future of Online Sports Betting

July 19, 2018Advice Standard

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that has prevented online sports betting from occurring anywhere in the country besides Nevada. All other states were prohibited from taxing and regulating sports betting. With this change in law along with technological innovations, online sports betting is poised to undergo a number of changes in the years ahead.

Online sports betting is well-established in many other countries throughout the world with companies such as one of the top sportsbooks in Canada, offering people the opportunity to place a bet from the convenience of a smartphone. Some experts predict that with the growing legalization of online sports betting in the United States, tech companies like Microsoft and Google may get into the act and drive new technology that will change the sports betting landscape.

One possible consideration is how sophisticated artificial intelligence may become in its ability to predict sports outcomes. All types of sports results can ultimately be broken down into numbers. When this data is fed to computers, they may be able to produce accurate predictions. In 2017, a startup called Unanimous A.I. accurately predicted the Super Bowl score and put the Kentucky Derby winners in the right order. However, some sports are more data heavy than others, and some sports organizations release that data more readily than others. Furthermore, sports are ultimately not just a numbers game. There are other, often less tangible factors that may affect a game’s outcome from interactions between players to bad calls by referees to the intuition that a talented player draws on to make decisions during the game.

This is not stopping companies from exploring the possibilities of building A.I. to make predictions. One startup in London, Stratagem, is using deep neural networks to make predictions about soccer, basketball and tennis games. “Deep neural network” refers to a type of computing system that in some ways mimics a biological brain and is capable of complex modeling based on analysis of huge amounts of data. However, some studies have shown that even using A.I. to make stock market predictions can be less reliable than having a familiarity with the market and investing in the top performers. Therefore, the overall impact of this type of technology on online sports betting remains to be seen.

One thing that is certain is that the United States represents a huge new market. In one year, more than 4 billion bets were placed on the Super Bowl and the vast majority of them were illegal. It is safe to assume that once online sports betting becomes legal in more states, not to mention the continued push to bring sportsbooks to the casino, the number of bets made will rise even further. Sports organizations in the United States, including the National Hockey League, the National Football League and others already have affiliations with global sports betting companies. It is likely that they will begin working with domestic companies as well.

Fast-moving technology is rapidly changing everything from how people drive to how they consume entertainment, communicate with one another and more, and it is likely to do the same for the field of online sports betting. However, whether sophisticated analysis of complex data by machines is able to trump the human element in predicting sports outcomes remains an open question.


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