Covering Disruptive Technology Powering Business in The Digital Age

Home > DTA news > News > BOS Speaker Profile: James Waterhouse – Equotion: Big Data…the real betting industry game changer
BOS Speaker Profile: James Waterhouse – Equotion: Big Data…the real betting industry game changer
September 6, 2016 News

Ahead of the Betting on Sports Conference (15-16 September), James Waterhouse Founder of Equotion details to SBC readers how ‘big data’ has impacted betting’s operational value chain.

With all betting stakeholder’s demanding greater data efficiencies, Waterhouse tells SBC that industry players should seek to implement diverse data models and approaches in order stay ahead of competitive field.


SBC: James great to interview you, how has data’s relationship with the betting industry evolved. At what stage in the operational lifecycle does data and betting find itself at?

James Waterhouse: Traditionally the betting industry has focused on using experts with deep sector knowledge and understanding to set odds, manage risk and deliver profit.  Over the years a number of people have worked to exploit, pitching their own knowledge and experience against that of the bookies own teams.  There have been interesting successes along the way – but these were all based upon large bets on a few horses making them easy to spot and to counter.

Recently the bookmakers have been using behavioural analytics to increase profits by monitoring, and often excluding, gamblers who have a greater than average win rate.  Behavioural analytics form the bedrock of the gaming industry with players every move monitored, dissected and key behaviours grouped so that the systems can extract the maximum amount of cash for the minimum amount of return.  This ability to manage risk across all of your clients whilst at the same time delivering the exact encouragement to each individual player to continually spend more makes it one of the more interesting and ultimately profitable areas of gambling technology.

The focus on gaming and client behaviours plus a genuine belief that expertise beats technology means there is a gap in terms of odds setting and risk management across the industry when it comes to sports betting.

There are analytical systems out there that follow the money (the market has proven itself to be “intelligent” so there is good rational in following it’s lead) and also on traditional form analytics (be that timings, finishing positions, jockey success, yard performance etc). Then there is Equotion – the first of the next generation tools to use a combination of analytical techniques from the worlds of statistical physics, the travel industry and online dating.

We are really at the beginning of the curve in terms of performance analytics – we believe that there is a long way to go here and that we have developed a completely new way of using historical data to predict likely outcomes.  The benefits of this for the sport and the industry are huge – it will start with a few early adopter investors that will prove the model and initially cause some pain but once the industry picks up on the benefits of a fully automated predictive model we believe that a new arms race will begin – the outcome of which is likely to enhance both the client experience and the bookmakers profits.

SBC: Betting operators may be more intelligent in terms of big data competencies, however from an end user perspective are they being more efficient?

JW: Most of the time end users become aware of a betting operators’ big data competency, its likely to be a negative experience – either finding accounts closed or restricted or being encouraged / coerced into spending more than they had planned.  Most of the data betting operators hold and exploit is working against the end user rather than for them.  That is entirely expected – the relationship between user and provider is complex, competitive, sometimes even gladiatorial – the Jason and Goliath battle played out over the sporting field.

It is inevitable that as big data analytical technologies become more available and easier to use, end users will use these tools to try and get an edge in the battle for sporting cash.  That will drive the betting operators into new areas of risk management and new technologies to manage this threat.  It will start very simplistic but by its very nature, both sides will quickly learn to evolve and adapt in order to maintain a competitive or trading edge.

The large betting operators have huge resources at their disposal but it is the external view, distributed approach and absolute agility that will always put the intelligent user one step ahead.  Tools like Equotion are the beginning of a new revolution in sports betting and an exciting arms race that will see opportunity and profit for both sides.

SBC: Your team at Equotion has focused on data modelling for horseracing, expanding your services how do transfer racing data competencies into wider sports?

JW: Our toolset was actually developed as an analytical platform that could analyse any complex, structured or unstructured dataset.  The way the system was designed allows us to plug it into pretty much any historical statistics – football, tennis, golf, business performance, stock market etc – and make predictions.  The learning algorithms need training for each new deployment but essentially we can expand our footprint into pretty much any area of performance analytics.  The opportunities and possibilities for this technology are pretty much endless.

Using a combination of analytical techniques from worlds as diverse as statistical physics, the travel industry and online dating we were able to develop a completely new way of analysing comparative form – all calculated a number of different ways for each racecard against a vast array of datapoints.

Overlaying this is an AI derived learning algorithm that continually compares the performance of each of the above outputs and continually adjusts the balance within and between all of these scoring mechanics.

The upshot is a solution where at over 60% of UK racecourses we achieve a Win Percentage in excess of 20% – that is the one horse we pick wins the race between 20% and 34% of the time.  Our average across all courses is 22.3% winners straight out of the box.

SBC: Do you worry that the industry will simply copy and repeat data models from company to company. How should the industry keep fresh thinking in terms of its data process?

JW: There will always be plagiarism in this kind of industry – be that through reverse engineering, talent migration or imitation. The way to defend against this is to continually innovate.  That’s why having a platform like Equotion is so powerful – you have the means to continually evolve the model, the data and the approach to stay one step ahead of everyone else.  Anyone can create something that works for a few days or weeks…you need something that is incredibly advanced and flexible to keep it working year on year.

SBC: You will be speaking at BOS on Big Data and betting operations, what do you want delegates to take away from your session?  

JW: Big Data and more specifically the analytical techniques developed to manage and provide insight from big data are delivering huge potential to the betting industry.  Our core technology can give end users the edge when placing bets which could be seen as a negative, but it also provides a plausible platform for new entrants into the market, small time hobbyist investors, private banks and investment funds brining much-needed liquidity and new volumes of cash.  It could also help yards and owners select the most profitable races for their horses; it could deliver a risk management tool to improve the bottom line of a sportsbook; it has the capability to drive interest and take-up of new media channels by providing the most accurate tipping services currently available – what I want to outline during the talk is the art of the possible and how, with the right planning and approach, betting operators can make the most of this new technology and turn a threat into a significant market advantage.


James Waterhouse – Founder Equotion

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 21.15.34

This article was originally published on can be viewed in full