martes, 23 de noviembre de 2010

Betting in gaming innovation: apostando sobre cada jugada, no sólo sobre el marcador final

El artículo es de Wired: Wall Street Firm Uses Algorithms to Make Sports Betting Like Stock Trading

Extracto clave 1:

"This style of on-the-fly wagering while the game unfolds, known as in-running, didn’t exist in Vegas casinos when Cantor Gaming arrived. Other big casinos in town give sports gamblers a narrow range of betting opportunities and a limited amount of time in which to bet. That appalls Lee Amaitis, formerly co-CEO of Cantor offshoot BGC Partners and now president and CEO of Cantor Gaming. “When Wall Street first opens, everybody starts trading; in this town, when a game gets going, everybody stops betting,” he says. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. The game is the market. Why not let people bet the market?”"

Extracto clave 2:

"Casino executives neglect sports books because taking bets on athletic events seems like a risky proposition. They like guests to play craps, slots, and baccarat, games in which a favorable outcome for the house is all but guaranteed. From the point of view of casino owners, the result of a sporting event is incredibly uncertain, and they have no control over it. Experienced sports bettors, known as smart-money gamblers, can win far more steadily than someone playing roulette or pai gow poker. And a major upset can require a huge payout. For all these reasons, many casinos have decided that it’s best to minimize their risks by posting odds that stay in line with those of the other casinos in town, keeping betting limits low, and discouraging wagers by expert gamblers. “The other bookmakers in this town are afraid to take bets, and they hate us,” Amaitis says. “For me, not taking smart-money bets is like Cantor Fitzgerald not selling stock to Goldman Sachs. We do trades all day with Goldman, Deutsche, Citibank. You think those guys are stupid?”

Amaitis’ scrappiness and his willingness to use technology to open untapped markets fit right in with the ethos of Cantor Fitzgerald. It is, after all, the firm that in 1999 became the first to do fully electronic US bond market trades with customers. The swagger even survived September 11, 2001, when its New York headquarters on floors 101 through 105 of One World Trade Center was destroyed. More than two-thirds of its New York staff perished, and the company’s primary data center was decimated. But a skeleton crew of Cantor staffers was able to get back online and resume trading just 48 hours after the attack. Cantor pledged 25 percent of its profits over the next five years to the families of its 658 employees killed on 9/11. It gave the grieving families a total of $180 million, thanks in part to yet more lucrative technological advances like being the first firm to offer wireless trading on BlackBerries.

Cantor’s latest innovation is the Midas algorithm, which is constantly being refined and fed reams of new statistical data. Even with Midas, however, sporting events are too volatile for Cantor to always end up on the right side of all the wagers it takes. But that’s OK: The point isn’t to nail the outcome of every contest; that’s a sucker’s game. There’s only one sure thing in sports gambling: the standard commission, known as the vigorish, that casinos charge when they take bets. When your wins are effectively balancing out your losses, the vigorish starts to add up. In this light, Cantor’s business model begins to look more like E-Trade than a conventional sports book. “The gaming business is nothing but a transaction business where you buy and sell sports instead of making a trade on the stock exchange,” Amaitis says. “It’s all about commission; and the more volume you do, the less risk you take.”

By 2012, Amaitis predicts, his company’s revenue will be $20 million. Cantor will make that money by taking far more bets than are made at present, enough that the vigorish will dwarf the income other casinos now make with their smaller (and safer) sports books. “My competitors want to hold 6 percent on a couple million dollars,” he says. “I’m looking to hold 2 percent on a couple billion dollars. Which would you rather have?”

Vegas has never seen this level of technological firepower, but Amaitis insists that it’s just the beginning. He likens the Midas program’s abilities to Wall Street’s first foray into computerization nearly 40 years ago, before people realized how the increased speed of trading opened up many exciting—or frightening, depending on your point of view—new investment opportunities. This year, Cantor was accepting bets on the outcome of NFL games months before the season started. But Amaitis wishes he could take more granular bets before kickoff. After all, more opportunities to bet means more commissions for Cantor. He dreams of being able to offer programmed sports betting that will allow gamblers to put in bid orders, just as you would with an electronic stock purchase. Before the game begins, you’ll be able to set your account so that a bet will automatically be placed if, for example, a team is ever a six-point underdog. You’d also be able to set it up to place a bet on the other side, say, if that number drops from six to four. Once your bids are in, you won’t even have to watch the game. “I am salivating for that,” Amaitis says."

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