While different avenues to legalization are explored in the U.S., several big-name companies are already lining up in anticipation of what would be a major shift in American sports culture and define the future of sports betting.
Familiar Nevada and European sports betting operators, like MGM and William Hill, are eyeing the opportunity, and state lotteries and Native American gaming interests also want a seat at the negotiating table, experts told ESPN. Online daily fantasy sports sites, with their infrastructure and established player bases in a coveted demographic, would appear to be in good position to offer traditional sports betting if made legal, as well.
The biggest bookies in the future might not be the names you’d expect, though.
A review of recent patents in the betting genre revealed Microsoft, Sony, Reuters and Wall Street financial firm Cantor Fitzgerald to be either existing holders or applicants. A number of individual entrepreneurs are in the mix, too; patent No. 8,632,392, for example, was issued in 2014 for “systems and methods for enabling remote device users to wager on micro events of games.” And others have built virtual currency-based wagering systems designed to be implemented on social media platforms like Facebook.
“In 10 years’ time, I expect sports betting to be part of major telecommunications companies and data companies,” said Chris Eaton, an integrity monitor and former investigator for INTERPOL. “I see the large international conglomerates — Bloomberg, Google, the massive data companies — swallowing up most of the sports betting operations around the world and operating an international platform, with all of sports betting being essentially offered on the mobile device, the mobile platform.”
Microsoft’s patent coincides with a research paper by David Pennock, a principal researcher and assistant managing director for the company. Pennock’s research produced an innovative wagering mechanism akin to pari-mutuel systems used in horse racing that Microsoft wanted to patent. There were no immediate plans for its use, Pennock said, but he does envision a future with tech companies involved in the sports betting world.
“I do think that there’s a lot of technology involved that’s not that trivial, especially for the more innovative things that I imagine are going to happen; so some of the technology companies may be better suited than an old-school sportsbook,” Pennock said. “I think maybe some of the technology companies are in better position to build the [betting] exchange in a better way.”
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and outspoken proponent of expanding legal sports betting, agrees.
“In the short term, there will be a lot of attempts by companies big and small to use their own versions of big data to be predictive in sports, financial markets and other industries,” Cuban told ESPN. “In the long term, it will come down to what sources of information and which companies will help create the most powerful learning and reproductive algorithms and who will own those algorithms. I don’t have that answer and neither does anyone else at this point.”
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