The British are coming.
Since late April’s release of the U.K. government’s white paper on gaming regulation reform, the reaction in the United States sports betting industry has collectively been, “We’d better start doing these things ourselves if we want to avoid a similar bureaucratic intervention.”
Transparency, responsible gambling, betting limits, and education were among the major themes addressed in England’s white paper, and those elements have been top of mind for Wondr Nation CEO Anika Howard, who’s taken up financial literacy in wagering as one of her main focal points.
“When you’re looking at financial literacy for investing, you’re trying to get a return on your money and have a sustainable revenue stream. But with gambling, that’s never going to be the outcome,” she told Sports Handle just as the U.K. white paper was made public. “You have to see it for what it is. It’s a form of entertainment. And with anything, you have to set a budget. It’s not an investment strategy or a way to earn extra income. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment, like you’re going on a trip or going out to dinner. ‘Here’s what I’m going to spend.'”
Wondr Nation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Tribe that works with other gambling properties — mainly tribe-operated — to expand their online gaming options, among other areas of assistance.
“As operators, we’re obligated to provide a safe experience — spending limits, cool-off and cool-down periods,” said Howard. “In many cases, with the expansion of gaming, this is new for a lot of people to have a basic understanding of ‘here are the bets, here’s what they mean.'”
This can amount to, as Howard puts it, “information overload.” To combat that, she said, “A lot of the work Wondr Nation is doing is preventative and educational tactics — understanding the pitfalls of chasing losses and focusing on favorites and overreacting.”
Howard then added, “In the U.K., for a long time, they did not have those type of controls. There was not the same diligence and attention to responsible play early on. I think a lot of the things the U.S. market is doing now is lessons learned. Most suppliers and operators are leaning into and making very significant investments in responsible gaming.
“Beyond that, there’s collaboration with the leagues and teams to report suspicious behavior, money laundering compliance, and due diligence. These are becoming more nuanced as the technology improves.”
‘A FICO score for sports betting’
British-bred Betfred was among several U.S. sportsbooks to take a proactive stance in advance of the white paper’s release, entering into a partnership with Wager Score to provide Betfred customers with “a FICO score for sports betting,” according to co-founder Bo Grey.
In further explaining how Wager Score works to further financial literacy in sports betting, Grey said, “We provide real-time analytics so consumers can make decisions on their gambling habits. You’re two for 37 this week, maybe you should cool down. If you have data with an operator, you can share it with us, or we have partnerships, like with Betfred or Entain (half-owner of BetMGM), where the operator gives us data.”
To compile its score, Wager Score takes into account such factors as average bet size, how much someone is gambling relative to previous weeks or months, and what percentage of their disposable income they’re spending on sports bets. The product also delivers responsible gambling messages to users’ phones via text while offering access to problem gambling counseling through a partnership with Kindbridge.
“Being the father of two teenage boys who are going to see more gambling ads than cereal ads, I thought it was important to build a product that will influence this next generation of bettors,” said Grey. “They’re much more at-risk than we are. Back in the day, we had to find a guy to find a guy to go make a bet. Empowering the next generation to make smarter decisions about gambling is really our motivation.”
If bettors’ scores remain at a healthy level or improve, Grey added that Wager Score users “can get better offers” — be they tickets to a sporting event or some sort of bonus bet — from Betfred and other partners, provided they don’t opt out.
“It’s based on people betting responsibly, not profitability,” Grey explained.
Knowing your weaknesses
The main point of financial literacy in sports betting “is just not to do parlays,” joked Steve Rubenfaer from his Mexican domicile in early May.
Lamenting the mindset of the average sports bettor, Rubenfaer added, “People are financially illiterate. They bet too much, they fall in love with games, they don’t realize that a bet that has a 65 percent chance of winning has a 35 percent chance of losing. They don’t have a long-term bankroll strategy.”
Rubenfaer, who grew up in suburban Detroit, has long been an avid horseplayer, so it’s no surprise that BettorTakes, the latest app he’s gotten off the ground, puts considerable stock in bettors’ past performances. BettorTakes is a lot like Wager Score in that it spits out a score generated by a proprietary algorithm that tells a bettor how well they’re doing, but BettorTakes goes a step further by telling that bettor what their specific strengths and weaknesses are.
“We’ve developed an algorithm that helps bettors win more by identifying their strengths and weaknesses,” explained Rubenfaer. “The basic product is a predictive tool, and the way it works is the bettor tells us a bet they like — Lakers +4 — then we go through their previous betting history, find similar situations, take a whole bunch of variables, and distill it into one number, which we call an EDGE score, which is a numerical representation as to that bettor’s proficiency when it comes to that bet.
“The only question we’re answering is how did you do when you bet on similar situations previously? Is this something you’re good at or bad at? It just finds all these hidden patterns and biases and things you didn’t really realize that you were doing.”
An EDGE score of 50 is “literally like a coin toss,” said Rubenfaer, who added, “The real value is when the algorithm says this is something you kind of suck at. Maybe you should think twice about placing that bet. This is how we make better bettors. When you come face-to-face with something you’re not good at, you might add a little mindfulness. Hopefully it will improve your performance and improve your bankroll.
“Betting on sports has two components to it — one is the handicapping part, and the other part is the financial part. We help with both parts of that equation. We’re not saying we’re going to turn you into a winner, we’re just trying to improve your performance and stretch your money.”