In late October, Sportradar and FanDuel announced a partnership with the NBA that will extend well into the next decade.
Basically, the tech company will be providing the sportsbook with data about the sports company. Nothing to see here.
The deal, which includes both data and betting services, takes the partnership into the prime of Bronny James' career.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) October 26, 2022
But the following was also noted in the press release hyping the deal: “Sportradar and FanDuel will collaborate to enhance the sports betting experience through innovative products and offerings including, for the first time, the use of certain player tracking data to create props and support the growth of same game parlays.”
While that sounds lovely — after all, who doesn’t want more and varied props (and, sure, more and varied same game parlays) — there is a potential darker side to this.
“You’re creating an asymmetry in the market, creating an imbalance where one side of the market — the side that sets prices — has information the other side — the bettors — doesn’t have. This fundamentally changes the dynamic of the market, and to me, that is absurd.”
Those are the words of John Holden, a sports law professor at Oklahoma State University and outspoken critic of the — to him — unholy marriage between data companies, the leagues they service, and the sportsbooks.
“I don’t have an issue with player tracking data being sold if it’s available to everyone,” Holden said. “If there’s a way Basketball Reference can put the information out there, then go for it. At this point, though, if we’re going to sell proprietary information to just one side of the market, then we’re moving into carnival game territory and not a functional market.
“Think of it like this,” Holden continued. “If a bookmaker gets the NFL injury report but no one else has it, would you bet on a game this weekend? Of course not.”
What kind of data?
It begs the question: Just what kind of data, exactly, will be offered here?
Getting that answer was not easy.
Industry Leaders Sportradar and FanDuel Sign Long-Term Agreement for Official NBA Data Through 2030-31 Seasonhttps://t.co/Ow6IDU8OnD
— Alfonso Straffon 🇨🇷🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@astraffon) October 26, 2022
Representatives at FanDuel did not return emails asking about the data, but sources with knowledge of the deal were able to shed some light on what the future potentially holds for FanDuel — and any other sportsbook that purchases Sportradar’s NBA data. The data will be gathered by optical tracking, not wearable tech.
“They’ll be tracking a set of x and y coordinates, those dots are moving here, those dots are moving there, and we’ll be able to derive new stats for the sportsbooks to use,” one source said.
This data is not necessarily new; the NBA has been using cameras to track players, and teams have used the data for analytical purposes. The data has also been used by broadcast networks.
“But it’s never been made available to sportsbooks before,” another source said.
‘Less than ideal’
“It is asymmetric information that exists but is not available to bettors but is available to operators. Seems less than ideal for maintaining fair markets,” said professional gambler Captain Jack Andrews. “In practicality, it’s esoteric data, but it creates a precedent that isn’t healthy. If the leagues want fair betting markets — which they say they do — then they shouldn’t encourage this behavior.”
But not everyone thinks this is A) the plan or B) the intention.
“The whole point of this is we’re striving to create a balanced playing field for all participants,” a source with knowledge said. “It’s not about creating confusion or a dynamic where the bettor is at a disadvantage beyond what’s inherent to begin with.”
Holden agrees with that — but only to a point.
“I understand a bookie knows more about betting than I do, that’s his job, but I don’t want to bet against someone who knows that this guy is already maxed out, that he ran this much slower today than he usually does, which tells me he’s clearly hurt or exhausted,” Holden said. “If the bookie has that information and I don’t, I’m at a huge disadvantage. If Steph Curry isn’t playing tonight, that’s big news. But if Steph Curry shouldn’t be playing tonight, that’s even bigger news.”