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Euro2012 highlights new B2B battleground

21st June 2012 8:43 am GMT
We have enjoyed a great first round of Euro2012 with almost every game a corker. Ahead of kickoff, the pick of the opening round (leaving aside national affiliations) had to be Holland v Germany - Europe’s biggest grudge match and a clash of two of the world’s greatest teams. What better place to watch it (apart from inside Ukraine’s Metalist Stadium) than on the trading floor of one of the pioneers of in-play betting? Spread betting specialist Sporting Index offered in-play betting before Bet365 founder Denise Coates had left University.   “They were ahead of their time,” says a competitor and customer, who believes spread betting is the most exciting form of sports betting. But it is not for the light of pocket so Sporting Index was always going to struggle to move beyond its niche of rich banker types and others who were prepared to lose big as well as win big. When the rest of the bookmaking industry caught up, Sporting Index was left with its niche. But it also had some of the best algorithms and some of the smartest traders in the business. So it ploughed a seven-figure sum into its back-end, formed Sporting Solutions and came up with a B2B platform for fixed odds operators that it believes is the best in the business. And Holland-Germany aside, that’s what I’m really here to see.Trading places“The Global Trading Platform is the culmination of five years work,” says Sporting Solutions chief Simon Trim. It is a cloud-based service, which covers 22 sports in-play. It looks remarkably sophisticated and adaptable. For much more insight you would need a trader to give it the once over. The company’s blurb states “the platform was developed by traders for traders”. Which should make it a great product. The trouble with traders is that they are just too damned smart. Frankly, this is rocket science and my GCSE maths is often not quite enough to keep up.The cricket model, for example, was sent back to the developers three times by the traders because they just could not use it. Similarly, the American Football model was in production for two seasons. They started developing it six months before the start of a season but missed that one and the next because it was so difficult to do. “US sports are quite big for us,” says Trim, “because they are quite hard to model.” That makes it much more sensible for your average bookmaker to outsource it. Even the likes of William Hill, for example, takes an American Football feed from Sporting Solutions. The key point of the platform is its flexibility. Trim describes it as a “one-stop shop of trading tools” and, leaving aside the slightly irritating fact that everything has to be a “one-stop shop” nowadays, it seems to provide whatever level of automation you need. The customer can take an automated feed from the company, which requires no traders, or it can let its most inexperienced trader loose on the system, which will fill the gaps in his or her knowledge. The platform will also provide the most experienced trader with all the tools needed to do the job properly.The big matchWhich brings us nicely to senior football trader Colin Campbell. Campbell is trading the Holland-Germany game for Sporting Index and Sporting Solutions’ customers. He has five monitors on his desk and one of them, at least, he flicks constantly between Uefa’s site and Betfair’s for a bit of comparison while continuing to watch the game. Campbell priced up the game for three days in advance - proof, if it were needed that it’s not all done by robots. “Our algorithms are good,” says Trim. “But algorithm plus trader beats algorithm every time.” The trading floor is much like any office - albeit one with sports showing on TVs everywhere. It is a much quieter place than it would have been during Euro96 when the traders would have been yelling prices across the floor. Now Campbell just shouts the occasional price to a colleague taking telephone bets, which is just 20 per cent of the company’s business now. The rest is all online. “Punters have evolved as well,” says Campbell. “They used to only care about the top five markets.” Now they get the option of all manner of bets from number of corners to novelty bets such as the Robben & Jerome section - “named after Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng,” pointed out Campbell unnecessarily. I think he was quite proud of that little beauty. The game was, of course, fantastic - unless you are Dutch. Mario Gomez’s two goals for Germany meant his price in the golden boot index shot up from 28-31 before the game to 60-65 immediately after the game. “We stand to pay out six figures if he wins the Golden Boot – he’s been a very popular punt,” grumbles commercial director Mark Maydon. Sporting Index will be glad to see the back of Holland. In their next game, Cristiano Ronaldo’s two goals meant the pre-tournament golden boot favourite got his many supporters excited. Perhaps the most interesting of watching the trading (as opposed to the football) is when Campbell suspends the markets - well, to be fair, it’s also one of the few times when I actually understand what he’s doing. “Suspension is where bookmakers vary a lot,” says Trim. Sporting Solutions prides itself on not suspending the tennis if, for example, Roger Federer is 6-0, 6-0 and 40-0 up. I have heard executives at Unibet’s Kambi make a similar boast. Kambi was launched for a similar reason - to take advantage of the strength of the Unibet sportsbook. It was also launched because of the lack of B2B sportsbook providers. Kambi’s progress has been relatively slow but Unibet CEO Henrik Tjärnstrom can hardly let a sentence go by without mentioning his B2B arm. He is in hard sell mode. As is Sporting Solutions. Both feel they are on the verge of something special - as do other competitors such as Betradar and OneWorks. Kambi’s progress has been relatively slow but is speeding up with three significant deals in the last month. The demand for in-play services is immense and is only likely to increase - unless Europe puts the kibosh on it - and Sporting Solutions claims to have a bunch of deals in the pipeline. This battle of the sportsbook providers will be one to watch. But who will be Holland and who will be Germany?sah@gamingintelligence.com
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