Author: Chris Kape, Founder & CEO, JAMCO Capital

The global pandemic may have irrevocably defined sport last year, but it has also been the period in which online sports betting was firmly established as a powerhouse in the US market. This year, 19 states will vote on whether to legalise mobile sports betting and around 8 – 10 of those markets are expected to open up before year end. These are exciting times for the north American sports betting industry and its little surprise that its most recent industry forecasts estimate it to be worth over $20Bn within the next 5 years.

Matching the pace with In-play
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest drivers of online sports book growth has been In-Play betting. Across the pond, in more established markets such as the UK, this vertical already accounts for 70-80% of market revenue. Many predict that within the next three years this figure will be closely reflected in the US market.

As a product, In-Play betting is very attractive to operators because it is a great way to expand revenue above traditional offerings, through creating a seemingly infinite amount of betting opportunities for customers. Also, the natural ‘stop and start’ pace of America’s most popular sports including American Football and Basketball means that smaller betting opportunities such as ‘Next player to score a touchdown or a 3-pointer’ are easily created.

Keeping the buzz through Micro markets
Some of the leading brands in the US market have recently commented that traditional sports betting is too complex for sports fans and lacks the instant gratification needed to engage a new, wider audience. The US population is estimated to have a little over 37 million sports bettors, but the number of estimated sports fans is over 150 million. This strongly suggests that there’s a over 112 million US sports fans still waiting to be engaged.

In today’s society, content is a fast-moving commodity, constantly being produced and consumed on a never-ending conveyor belt of news and entertainment. This societal trend has shaped the market landscape to the point where today, players now expect instant gratification throughout their playing experience. The emerging trend of Micro-Markets is the perfect solution for this increasing shift towards fast, easy to consume entertainment.
Micro-Markets are betting markets that are created and resulted in just minutes or seconds, and for U.S. sports, are often coupled with the core engaging moments that drive consumption (e.g., pitches & at-bats for MLB, plays & drives for NFL). Especially since the lockdown, this has been a great way to give sports fans a continuous buzz throughout the games when they’re not physically able to be in the bleachers! Some industry commentators believe that by the end of the decade, over 80% of U.S. sports betting will be In-Play, and over 50% of In-Play betting handles are expected to be micro-betting.

The importance of AI
Micro market betting products are heavily reliant on the quick turn-around of stats to support the bet-type. Data companies optimising the latest technology are the key to the growth and expansion of these live betting opportunities.

The subtle, more minute details about players, teams and the games themselves are difficult to gather. Ultimately, it is the quick and unwavering stats from data companies utilising new technology such as AI, that help sportsbooks set odds, manage profit margins and determine pay-outs on an increasing variety of betting events.

The dynamic nature of In-Play betting means that things can change unexpectedly. This is almost impossible for a human to assess, but machine learning applications can evaluate the data in real time and adjust the odds in micro-seconds to reflect the ever-changing nature of sports events. AI and machine learning algorithms are designed to scour through all the relevant, contextual data that could impact a particular match, such as the participating players, the weather, injury reports, sport betting stats, and trends. Providing users with access to the latest reports within a fraction of a second. As a result, the odds and fixtures created by AI based systems tend to be significantly more accurate when compared to any past modelling systems

At its purest, the US live sports betting landscape, micro markets especially, is a technological battleground and it’s the operators than can deploy technology best – or identify superior suppliers or particular disruptive technologies – that will succeed. As a vertical, micro markets provide the perfect platform to engage US sports fans with simple, fun and most importantly, safe betting opportunities, taking their viewing experience to the next level!

Chris Kape, an iGaming industry veteran of two decades, is the owner of JAMCO Capital,
a family office venture capital firm, and is the founder and ex-CEO of Don Best Sports, which was sold to Scientific Games in 2018.