Why golf is the future of in-play betting

Why golf is the future of in-play betting

With The Masters just around the corner, Martin de Knijff, CEO & Founder of Metric Gaming, highlights the huge potential of in-play betting in golf and why operators are missing a trick by not tapping into this growing and lucrative market.

The eyes of the sporting world descend on Augusta again this week, as the annual celebration of golf that is The Masters takes place at the famous Georgia course.

While some might plump for the history of The Open, and others will choose great occasions such as the Fifa World Cup, Olympics or the Super Bowl, for me there’s no greater occasion on the sporting calendar than The Masters. We have the tradition that comes with the famous Green Jacket, and the intrigue that comes with watching even the very best daunted by a course that represents golf’s greatest challenge. We have unforgettable moments such as Jack Nicklaus rolling back the years to claim his final major as a 46-year-old, and a 21-year-old Tiger Woods destroying the field in 1997. At the other end of the scale we recall the devastating collapses suffered by Greg Norman and Rory McIlroy when glory seemed assured.

While the competition on offer at Augusta always seems to ascend the greatest heights, it’s been my feeling for some years that the betting sector has failed to fully embrace this glorious sport. For me, it’s a given that golf should be the champion of the in-play betting era. It’s a sport rich in data and the potential for volatility, and a huge number of golf fans worldwide would love to put their expertise to the test if only operators would offer the markets they so desire.

Interest

Despite a drop in participation over the last decade or so, participation in the UK remains just above the 3.3 million mark. Golf is undoubtedly growing in mainland Europe, with France to host the Ryder Cup next year, and participation rates having soared in countries such as Germany and Sweden in recent years. The number of golfers across China is growing at about 7 to 8 per cent a year, roughly on a par with the country’s gross domestic product.

Sky TV is reportedly paying £15m a year to broadcast the Open, which shows the level of viewing interest that golf generates in the UK. While figures were well down last year as the Open switched from the free-to-air BBC to the subscription service, more than a million sports mad viewers – and potential bettors – were tuned in. In the US, golf broadcasts on NBC, Fox and CBS attracted a combined 165m viewers during the course of 2016.

In contrast, tennis – a star of the in-play betting era – attracted just 1.7m viewers in the US for the 2016 final of the US Open between Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.

Potential

While the interest is there, how can the offering turn viewers into punters? The ascent of tennis is due primarily to the development and availability of truly live digital content. Thanks to Metric’s SuperLive, as employed by operators such as BetStars and BoyleSports, this level of service is now available for golf. Rather than just ante-post betting or selecting the winner of the next hole, golf fans can now bet on whether McIlroy’s putt will be sunk or the distance of a Jason Day drive.

Compared to other sports’ in-play propositions, live golf markets are far more accessible to the average punter, as the sport uniquely lends itself to live wagering given its ‘game within a game’ format; indeed, every hole of golf provides a new mini-game with hundreds of wagering opportunities. As such, there is no adaptation required, and all focus can remain where it belongs: on the user experience.

For many operators, however, several hurdles stand in the way of leveraging this growing trend. Most common is the lack of proprietary in-house technology, which forces operators to seek expensive, outsourced alternatives. And while sports-betting platform providers typically offer turnkey solutions, many of those providers are themselves operating on outdated technology, ill-suited to accommodate the new generation of sports bettor that demands and expects its wagers to mimic the instant gratification culture in which we live today.

Indeed, such ‘instant’ markets entail not only massive data loads with potentially huge volumes of concurrent users, they must also maintain the absolute highest standards of transactional integrity, such that as each wager is graded, users’ accounts can be debited and credited in real time. This new breed of ‘what will happen next?’ sports betting is impossible without cutting-edge equipment, software and programming techniques, such as those relied on today by Metric Gaming to provide SuperLive.

Golf has a great future, and I have great hope for its potential as a betting proposition. And, if you’re asking, I’ll be putting my money on the in-form Hideki Matsuyama and outsiders Jon Rahm and Marc Leishmann.

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Metric Gaming creates innovative, first-to-market mobile sports wagering software and provides unique sports handicapping expertise on behalf of licensed operators, technology providers and media companies interested in capitalising on the massive and rapidly-expanding mobile wagering marketplace. While optimised for mobile use, Metric’s products are also fully compatible with desktop user interfaces as well as brick-and-mortar retail solutions. 

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