Talking to Your Betting Future

Voice control user interface smart speaker vector illustration

“Alexa, I fancy France to win the World Cup. What’s the best price you can find?”

“Right now that would be 7-to-1.”

“OK, can you put £10 ($13.40) on that for me?”

Many people who will read this article own an Amazon Echo or use Google Home. They’ll be familiar with voice recognition and increasingly comfortable with using it. But this week two stories have emerged that, when they inevitably come together, could change the face of sports betting as we know it.

Most of us who bet regularly use a site like Oddschecker to make sure that we are receiving the best odds. After all, why take Paddy Power’s 6-to-1 on France winning the World Cup when another firm will give you 7-to-1?

But even using Oddschecker is time-consuming. I need to be in front of a computer. It doesn’t really work on a mobile. When I’ve found the best price, I need to log in to my account with the relevant bookmaker. All too often the advertised price turns out not to be available.

“Alexa, put £10 on France to win the World Cup at the best price you can find that is more than 6-to-1” is a much better use of my time.

Europe leads the US

We tend to think of the US as the land of cutting-edge technology; but, in fact, when it comes to using your voice, Europe leads the way because it is the home of so many sports betting companies.

In the US 87%, of people are aware of voice and text aides, but the EU is streets ahead when it comes to using new technology from Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft for their daily shopping needs.

According to research from Mastercard, 21% of consumers have made purchases using a voice app like Alexa or Siri, 16% have made payments, and 7% trust the apps so much that they use them for day-to-day banking. And where shopping leads, betting will not be far behind.

Meanwhile, in the Premier League

Last week there was a potentially momentous announcement from the English Premier League. From the 2019/20 season, Amazon will show 20 games a season after winning one of the final two broadcast packages.

In December 2019, Amazon will show every game from the first round of midweek fixtures and will present all 10 matches on December 26th as part of the three-season deal.

The games will be free to Amazon Prime members. The Premier League described Amazon as “an exciting new partner.” Fans’ organizations were quick to criticize the deal, arguing that there was already too much live football on TV. But, as we all know, the Premier League is now as much about the audience around the world as it is about the attendance at the ground.

Amazon showing games on Boxing Day will undoubtedly cause disruption for fans. It is easy to see games kicking off at say, 11:30, 2pm, 4:30, and 7:45. And while Boxing Day traditionally sees teams playing local derbies, that will not apply to the raft of mid-week fixtures. If you’re a Southampton fan committed to supporting his team in every game, getting home from Newcastle at 10pm may not be the most straightforward thing in the world.

Amazon has picked up a package of games that will allow it to test the market at a relatively low cost; BT bought a similar package of games for just £90m ($120m). There has been plenty of analysis of the deal, with commentators looking at the impact on fans, clubs, and rival broadcasters. Fans will face more travel at inconvenient times, but they will be compensated by the chance to watch games for the relatively low cost of Prime membership.

The clubs will get another injection of cash and the Sky/BT cartel was always going to come under threat. No one, though, seems to have considered the impact on online bookmakers. Right now that is a fragmented market. Going back to Oddschecker, there are 24 bookmakers and four betting exchanges quoted. That is by no means the full list of online sports betting companies and it adds up to a very fragmented market.

Suppose Amazon were to open an online sports betting company? Clearly, Amazon could not show live football and restrict betting on the game to their bookie. How the EU competition authorities would love that! But this is the company that started selling books and now sells everything, the company that by accident or design is changing the face of high streets up and down the UK.

The new buzzword in business is “disruption” and, in the same way that online betting has disrupted the traditional betting shop, it is not impossible that something could come along to disrupt online betting.

That brings us full circle to Alexa. Placing a bet while you are watching a live game is time-consuming and, all too often in my case, it means you are looking at your phone when a goal is scored. How much simpler to say, “Alexa, back 0-0 at 7.8 and lay the bet off when it reaches 6.4.”

Don’t think it won’t happen, because it will. Today, the best way to predict the future is to think the previously unthinkable. Just as my children will one day sit in their car and tell it to take them to Manchester, so I will sit at home and bet through a voice recognition betting assistant. The question is: How many betting companies will Alexa be talking to?

Amazon has just done a deal with the Premier League. European consumers are increasingly using Alexa and Google Home to make purchases. How are these two developments linked? And what could they mean for online betting companies?

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