William Hill and Stats Perform have entered into a first-of-its kind data partnership that could have major implications on how betting lines are generated for player props over the next decade.
Under the partnership, the sports technology group will utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques that will enable William Hill to create unique player prop bets. During the first phase of the rollout, Stats Perform will supply probability lines for William Hill’s expansive menu of NBA and NFL props. If successful, the partnership could be expanded to several other sports.
“For me, this is absolutely on the sweet spot of what Stats Perform will be in the future to the industry,” Stats Perform Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Ashenden told Sports Handle.
The probability lines are determined through STATS VQ, a platform launched in April that uses proprietary algorithms and artificial intelligence to come up with more accurate prop bets than the rest of the market. The launch came a week after Europe-based Perform Group announced a proposed merger with STATS LLC that sought to combine two of the world’s leading sports data providers.
The merger was finalized in July after the companies completed the requisite regulatory and closing obligations.
“For years, sportsbooks in the U.K. and Las Vegas have been using player props and predictions created through traditional data,” Dr. Helen Sun, chief technology officer at STATS, said in an April press release. “Given the advancements in A.I. and machine learning, it’s time we harness the technology to improve overall accuracy.”
While the deal is considered a global partnership, it primarily involves the U.S. market, a source said.
Customized NFL props
Each year, the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) brings together the industry’s top leaders from around the world. For the second consecutive year, the continued expansion of U.S. legalized sports betting dominated the conversation at the three-day conference in Las Vegas. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered a keynote address on Oct. 15, and the next day NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and William Hill US CEO Joe Asher appeared on a panel session on new business partnerships in the sports gambling ecosystem.
While the majority of conference participants left Sin City by Thursday afternoon, hundreds remained later in the evening when the Kansas City Chiefs took on the Denver Broncos. At Lagasse’s Stadium inside The Palazzo, two attendees still in town, Gamble On podcast hosts Eric Raskin and John Brennan, sweated a prop bet announced on this week’s podcast: over 29.5 yards for Tyreek Hill’s longest catch of the game. At the five-minute mark of the third quarter, Hill had one catch for six yards. With Patrick Mahomes sidelined by a knee injury, the bet looked like a losing proposition.
But on a first down from the Chiefs’ 43, backup Matt Moore avoided a sack and connected with Hill on a crossing route. Hill gained separation from Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., grabbed the pass, and raced down the right sideline for a 57-yard touchdown. Bettors who were counting on Hill to haul in at least one bomb rejoiced.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 18, 2019
The Broncos rushed five on the play, while Harris tracked Hill in man coverage. The data sets used by STATS VQ are granular enough that the platform tracks every single player movement from all 22 players on the field for every single play of a game. From a backward-looking perspective, the platform can assess how Hill has fared against the Broncos in press-man coverage, Cover-2, Cover-3, and other schemes in the past. More critically, the technology will ultimately try to predict how Hill will perform against Broncos corners he’ll be facing for the first time.
The data sets are too complex for humans to interpret, Ashenden said. But with machine learning-generated player predictions, STATS VQ can analyze vast amounts of data at rapid speeds in order to derive probabilities for what could happen next in a game.
“The applications for it are endless,” Ashenden said. “I think it’s the next evolution of our business.”
Stats Perform, which employs 40 A.I. scientists, collects more than 30 million unique data points and distributes them to more than 1,800 customers each year, according to a company press release.
Demand for microbets unknown
Previously a vocal critic of sports gambling, Bettman has reversed his stance since the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision. The NHL has not pursued royalty fees from sportsbooks for the use of official league data. But Bettman indicated that the league could charge books for its player and puck tracking data, which he expects to be in place at NHL arenas in time for the playoffs.
The technology enables the league to track metrics such as a game’s fastest shot and the player who skated the longest distance over the course of a 60-minute contest. Prop bets on whether a player will record a shot over 100 miles per hour still need to receive regulatory approval. Asher lauded the NHL for its innovative approach.
From @tdewey33: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league expects to have its player and puck tracking technology, which sportsbooks could use for live, in-game wagering, in place by the 2019-20 playoffs. https://t.co/g7JcMMwjYP
— David Schoen 📰🗞🏒 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) October 17, 2019
While Asher is unsure if artificial intelligence can optimize prop betting, William Hill appears to be embracing the use of predictive analytics in sports betting. A team of data scientists from Stats Perform worked closely with William Hill’s analysts for about a year to ensure that the companies had the technological compatibility to complete the partnership.
“I think there is a lot of entrepreneurial activity around this space, as there should be,” Asher told Sports Handle.
When it comes to in-play betting, Asher said customers largely bet on the outcome of a game or a defined subset such as whether a team will score a run in the next inning. At some mobile sportsbooks, prop bets can comprise roughly 15-20% of an operator’s NFL handle on a given Sunday, National Football Post reported.
It is also too early to gauge interest levels on microbets that ask customers to predict whether Steph Curry will hit his first 3-point attempt or if Justin Verlander will throw a strike on his next pitch. Asher does not have a crystal ball.
“Clearly some people will be interested, but will it be a big segment of the population?” Asher said. “Time will tell.”