Mark Wilson: How FSB is meeting the recreational cricket punter’s demands

On the eve of England’s final test match against Pakistan, FSB Head of Trading Mark Wilson (pictured) gave SBC News valuable insight on the rise of cricket algorithms and how he and FSB had to quickly adapt their cricket strategy during lockdown.

SBC: International cricket made a return earlier this summer with the Test series. Can cricket step-up to the crease in offering a popular market for punters?

MW: Absolutely. Cricket has always been a very popular sport to bet on in the UK and in the Indian Subcontinent cricket is the most popular sport.

The advent of lots of T20 tournaments such as the IPL and the Big Bash has seen betting turnover soar in recent years. Like in other sports the demand has been for more quickfire in-play markets such as run bands, next dismissal etc, and the increase in this type of market has kept the recreational punter engaged throughout the course of a match.

SBC: In terms of betting volumes, how has engagement with the sport compared to pre- lockdown figures? And what can sportsbooks do to retain those customers that wouldn’t otherwise have engaged with the sport?

MW: Like with other sports post lockdown, the return of International cricket saw a real upsurge in turnover with punters being starved of top class action for several months. Both Test series have been really popular with matches being in the balance throughout.

The first test between England and Pakistan was very good from a turnover perspective with England coming back from a precarious position on the 4th day.

With regards to keeping new fans of the sport engaged, here at FSB our marketing teams have continued to keep serving these players with relevant content and messaging even when the general sports betting focus has switched back to football and racing. The good thing about
cricket is that key events stretch throughout the year so it’s a sport worth investing marketing time in.

SBC: With the sport taking place behind closed doors, what would you say have been the key challenges to pricing fanless matches?

MW: Unlike in other sports the fact the matches have been played behind closed doors is not such an issue, home advantage remains the same due to pitch conditions. The challenge in terms of pricing the first test was more about gauging form and fitness of players who like everyone else had also been in lockdown.

SBC: What would you say are the pros and cons of cricket data feeds at the moment?

MW: Data feeds are absolutely integral to what we do at FSB and our ability to integrate and curate multiple data feeds on our platform is generally recognised as one of our core strengths. The pros and cons of this particular sport are actually linked as the sheer breadth of feeds we now offer our clients gives us a full 360 degree picture when trading but at the same time we have to be conscious that lower-level feeds need to be monitored closely for the likes of potential time lags.

We worked hard over the lockdown period to continually source alternative content for our partners and we were delighted to secure and trade cricket from the likes of Sweden, Switzerland and Germany. Not countries we’ve ever associated with the great game!

SBC: Has the lockdown period encouraged further use of machine learning to improve FSB’s offering?

MW: At FSB we now use AI to influence a broad section of our trading algorithms while our tech teams have built programmes that help us predict customer behaviour. An extremely valuable tool for our marketing services team!

SBC: As a sport, cricket holds three international formats – One Day, T20 and Test Series. However, do bookmaker markets need to reflect these different variances of the sport? Is cricket under-served by current bookmaker offerings?

MW: Yes, as a rule we would generally aim to offer more quick fire markets in the shorter formats of the game. However throughout the three formats of the game Match Winner and the Team Run lines remain the most popular markets to bet on.

I think cricket is well served by the current bookmakers offerings with more matches offered than ever before. Like with other sports more markets will continually be offered with the increased availability of data.

The cricket betting landscape has shifted over the last decade to the point where T20 cricket has now usurped the traditional Test format. The T20 offering needs to be packed with more markets and these need to be fast and engaging due to the speed of this code of the game. Small band markets come to the fore and these can now be more popular than the traditional Match Winner market, with the recreational punter.

SBC: How do bookmakers counter ‘on the ground’ variables that impact cricket play (weather, pitch conditions, lighting,) etc? Is cricket still the domain of traders over algorithms?

MW: Home advantage, pitch conditions, weather and player performance are key components of your algorithm. These algorithms are simply a must for trading cricket as there are too many variables to do it manually.

However, traders are absolutely required to trade the match and react to what they see with their own eyes. Cricket can be very much an individual sport within a team sport and traders may spot a change in basis at times during a match if individuals are performing much above or below expectations. But overall, algorithmic trading is crucial and must continually evolve.

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