The evolution of sports trading within European bookmakers

Oliver Page outlines the changing nature of trading departments within European bookmakers and how he is developing his skill-set to stay ahead.

Categories: All Sports, Execution & Getting On, Statistical models, Technology, The basics

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Sports trading is a fast-paced and rapidly evolving industry. It is important for current and prospective employees to understand just how the industry is changing in order to identify and develop their own career paths within it.

How is the Industry Changing?

Television networks continue to compete against each other to see who can offer the greatest volume and variety of lucrative live sport to their audiences. This boom shows no sign of diminishing and it has been accompanied by similar growth in the popularity of live sports betting. The ubiquitous nature of advertisements for in-play betting during these sporting events is testimony to that.

The popularity of in-play betting has been recognised by many Sportsbooks, who have been quick to expand the number of live events they offer to their customers beyond those that are actually available to watch on television. It is Wednesday morning UK time as I write and currently I can bet on men’s, women’s and youth football matches from Spain, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and India!

How is the Role of the Sports Trader Changing?

The developments above mean many bookmakers’ trading departments are seeing a shift in priorities and the focus for the trader is becoming less about quality of methodology and more about quantity of events covered.

With little time in the weekly sporting calendar for rigorous statistical analysis, what few trading roles remain may soon become little more than in-play data entry positions.

In addition, a number of firms now outsource much of their odds compilation to third parties, whilst others openly use automated price-scraping software to ensure they are never out of line with the odds offered by their competitors.

There are however, a number of areas in the industry that are seeing growth. There has been a growth in the number and sophistication of professional proprietary trading houses and betting syndicates. The advanced methodologies they use owe much to academic statistical research, for which the analysis of sporting events has become a recognised area of study.

This movement of producing increasingly complex and detailed data sets to analyse the outcome of sporting events, began in the US for sports such as baseball and basketball and has gradually grown to encompass all the major European sports. Such statistical analysis is also making its way from amateur blogs and websites into professional sports clubs and the mainstream media.

In short, prospective employees will need to embrace these advances and can no longer rely on their “old school” ways to get by.

Where Can I Fit In?

I have personally recently resigned from a position as a Sports Trader at an online UK Sportsbook and I am currently seeking my next career move.

My area of interest has always been the application of statistical analysis to improve understanding of sport and the rating of sports teams. I did not study Mathematics or Statistics at University so almost all of my knowledge is self-taught. I am currently working to build on this knowledge by undertaking several courses (including further Statistics and programming in R) and I look forward to sharing my experiences with the network.

I hope that my words may have struck a chord with other network members, and that the network can become a place where like-minded traders of all levels of expertise can share ideas.

About Oliver Page

Oliver has been a trader in the betting industry since 2006 and has gained experience of working for major on-line bookmakers and proprietary trading companies. His primary area of interest is statistical analysis and how it can improve the understanding and forecasting of sporting events. His main sport of focus is football with secondary interest in all the major US sports.
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