A match-winning performance


Keith O’Loughlin, SVP, Sportsbook and Platforms at SG Digital.

The problems experienced by some bettors during the recent Superbowl LV, highlight why sportsbook platform reliability and new technology is the key for evolving the sports betting experience to new heights

Continuously evolving the sportsbook proposition is of great importance, but we should never lose sight of the fundamental purpose of a platform – the ability to accept and process a bet seamlessly. 

Reliability is paramount to operators. Without a stable and robust platform to work from, operators are more than likely to miss out on valuable revenue opportunities, especially if downtime occurs during major sporting events when sportsbooks are put to the ultimate test. 

Sportsbook performance has come under scrutiny in recent months, particularly in the US after several operators reported downtime around February’s Superbowl LV where the Buccaneers beat the Chiefs by 31 – 9, which saw many unhappy customers unable to place a bet and claim winnings. These are key moments within the user journey and disruption of any kind will lead to an unhappy customer, which can have a lasting and negative impact on a brand’s image.

Such performance issues are resulting in many operators weighing up the opportunity of taking full control of their operations as opposed to leaning on third-party support. Ultimately, it is up to suppliers to ensure their platform offering can cope under the pressures of peak betting times.

Above all else, having a back-office system and associated processes that are robust, reliable, and able to cope with the demands when customers need to access the platform is key. This is the major reason why Scientific Games continues to make significant investments to ensure that we have scalable and reliable solutions. 

Taking platform performance to the next level

Scalability and performance are key to any platform that operates with the level of transactions that many leading bookmakers will encounter on a regular basis. Keeping a high standard of zero downtime requires constant reviews and upgrades at the back end to maintain performance. 

The assumption that a platform is ready for the next big test based on its previous performance around a major sporting event invites the potential for future issues. Just as a lengthy list of aircraft checks are carried out ahead of every single flight, platforms must also undergo rigorous testing to ensure there are no faults. 

At Scientific Games, we are proud of the fact we have been able to handle peak volumes for high profile events with no degradation in service on an ongoing basis. This is underpinned by our commitment to continually monitor and improve our platforms to ensure a faultless performance every day. 

Embracing new technology

One of the main benefits of leaning on a third-party provider is how these organisations are constantly experimenting and utilising new technologies to the raise the sports betting game. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are affecting all areas of our lives and driving huge changes in the areas of decision making and personalisation of offerings to customers. As bettors become more sophisticated and the number of markets increases, the use of AI and machine learning is becoming far more prominent to ensure that we can provide the latest information and, increasingly, a more tailored experience. 

By understanding past trends and behaviours, we can use predictive analytics to give customers an ever more bespoke service and options at their fingertips, when they want to use them responsibly.

Responding to high expectations

The demand for sports betting continues to grow apace, and bettors are becoming ever more sophisticated and demand high standards, rich functionality, the very latest prices, and low latency.

In turn, these demands drive our platform offering forward to support their ever-increasing needs. For February’s Big Game in the US, we offered over 700 different markets for bettors to enjoy and much more than what we would be able to for a regular-season match. This included several novelty markets, such as the colour of the sports drink that gets thrown at the coach, or what the opening song will be in the half time show, which creates additional complexity when it comes to trading.

For March Madness, another important betting event for the industry, our operator partners are offering more markets for the 2021 tournament than ever, driven by the demand for player propositions. 

Platform offerings must be current, performant and provide a great user experience. Most recently we have been focused on migrating our front-end user experience to a new technology stack to provide a slick digital interface with flexibility and enhanced functionality. We are also enhancing our trading platforms to give traders more functionality and data at their fingertips to enhance the end user experience.

What is critical, however, is the reliability and scalability of the core platform to allow such advances in sportsbook provision. Without doubt, proven and new technology is the key to evolving the sports betting experience.