Interesting to talk not only with people from sportsbooks at the heart of Ontario’s new hyper-competitive, regulated industry, but also people from some of the tech companies that will help sportsbooks differentiate themselves from their competitors.
As Kelly Brooks, co-founder and CEO of Quarter4, a Guelph-based AI-powered sports analytics and sports betting prediction platform, says, a new market like Ontario sports betting is not a one-size-fits-all scenario for the sportsbooks that have jumped in so far, and those who will be following soon. Her company launched in 2019.
Quarter4 has been working in the U.S. sports betting space for years — for example its data going out via Sportradar, and Basketball News — and is very aware of the challenges in the Canadian marketplace.
She said Quarter4 has signed 10 contracts in the last four weeks (at the time of the interview). Swish Analytics is a competitor.
As we have heard many times since the April 4 launch date, this will be a long-distance run, not a sprint. Canadian regulations are strict regarding advertisement of perks, so operators and their Ontario sports betting apps will have to focus on educating their consumers, somehow differentiating their product from the others.
What is Quarter4?
OntarioBets: Tell us more about Quarter4.
Kelly Brooks: We are a big data artificial intelligence platform. We generate two million predicted datapoints a day. So we predict play by play, every athlete that's on the court, on the field, on the ice, we predict every movement that they are going to make, like this faceoff is going to be won by this person, by a certain probability number.
We also do pregame analysis, prop analysis for players, so basically automatically every day we're generating two million data points for U.S. college sports, NHL, NFL, NBA. Soon we are adding golf and Premier League, and other sports that everyone keeps talking about.
Our platform is a validated, deep-learning neural network. We have historical data going back six years and then we have in-play data that we're generating every few seconds, and what the neural network does is that it learns millions of patterns and it learns to predict the next movement.
So we are a perfect combination for a trader or somebody who is looking to figure out what that next betting opportunity can be and what the probability of something happening could be.
We are business-to-business, so from the likes of Steve Kornacki on NBC who uses our data to come up with his probabilities in his playoff broadcasting all the way to a sportsbook operator who wants to create some really interesting content to pull a sports bettor down a funnel. Our content really suits that new type of affiliate that wants to engage a sports fan or bettor in a new way.
‘Predictions are Updated Every 15 Minutes’
OntarioBets: Give us an example, then, if we wanted to bet on an upcoming Leafs game.
Brooks: So basically up to seven days out we start predicting the probability that one team is going to beat another, and our predictions are updated every 15 minutes. If there’s an injury, or there is something happening with the roster, our predictions continuously change.
So seven days up to the game we predict the outcome. The other thing we do is we predict head-to-head player matchups — so this player is going to outperform another player.
For example Mitch Marner, we predict he’s going to get three points, all of a sudden you are educating people on the verbiage or the data that helps you make decisions to, say, make a prop bet on an over/under.
It draws people into that funnel but at the same time educating them. Our data is not necessarily for spreadsheet maniacs, but it's great for sports fans and casual bettors that don't understand enough about typical Vegas lingo to put in a big bet based on the lines. So it's almost like an educational resource but also it makes things very clear.
Sportsbooks in Ontario will need to use information and content intelligently, and creatively, to capture that casual bettor. Ontario is being very particular about how [sportsbooks] will infiltrate the ad scene, they don’t want to sportsbooks inundating everything with ads, and want to create more of a sustainable economy.
What’s an advertisement versus genuine content? If you are a tech entrepreneur, there is so much you can do in this industry, to make it better.
‘This is a Market That’s Young, Just Starting’
OntarioBets: How will the Ontario market be unique in your view?
Brooks: We need to be clever with acquisition, clever and respectful, really intelligent about how we're going to bring sports betters into the fold because we don't have the opportunity of display advertising. On the other hand, we're going to reduce customer acquisition costs because we’re not just handing out bonuses.
The second thing I think is people need to be aware how diverse Ontario is from a population perspective. People are assuming everyone's going to bet on a sport like curling but look at some of the West Indian neighborhoods, for example, where there’s a focus on sports like cricket and Premier League. So I think that we can't just be all Canadiana about this. But there’s a big opportunity with that.
The third thing is this is going to be thought of as a technology market. In order to grow this industry right now there needs to be a technical focus. It means companies moving into our area looking for technology educated people that are developers and data scientists in order to support their own growth.
A lot of these sportsbooks are looking to build their own technology, so I feel like there's going be a lot of competition all of the sudden with these groups coming in looking for technology people. That’s going to be an impact. There's going to be jobs created from this, some really good economic benefits long term.
We’re not known as a betting province, we’re not in Vegas, where they've been submerged with betting ads. A lot of people don't even know about sports betting here. But I see it as a big opportunity and a problem to solve.
How do we make people more aware of this but in a really clever, non-offensive way, that is not going to put gambling in a bad spotlight? How do we do it in a safe, fun way, an approach so that people can learn properly and that awareness gradually increases over the next few years? A slower, more sustainable build. People don’t talk about betting here. But this is a market that’s young, just starting.
For Ontario, this will generate a lot of revenue, but it will be a slow generation, a positive impact of us treating it as a respectable industry, including a technology industry.