There are a set number of sports that have always been synonymous with betting. Horse racing would barely survive if it weren’t for bookmakers. Cricket has become infamous with match and spot-fixing while football has become one of the most common subjects of betting slips simply because of its global popularity.
But the internet has provided new opportunities in all walks of life – sport especially. Localised sports can now be viewed across the globe. Even semi-professional teams can be followed regardless of location and fans are now able to interact with the most high profile stars.
Much more relevant to the online gambling industry is the rise in bets on sports that were previously limited to those with insider knowledge or an extreme passion. While the likes of horse racing, football and greyhound racing still rule the roost when it comes the volume of bets placed, there’s much more interest in sports outside of the traditional big three.
One of the sports to have risen to the attention of the general punter more than any other in the internet age is tennis. The growth in tennis betting has been undeniable with stakes on the sport increasing by 56% in 2012. The sport has become so popular that Andy Murray’s first Wimbledon final in 2012 swiftly became Betfair’s largest ever market with more than £58 million of bets being place on it.
It’s facts like this that encouraged Ladbrokes to state to their shareholders that their 2013 focus would be tennis and US sports. Even though a whole lot has changed at the London-based bookmaker, you would think that the perceived important of tennis has remained.
Rupert Adams, part of the media relations team at William Hill highlights how important online channels have been to tennis betting.
He says: “Tennis betting is predominantly online although the profile has been growing with Andy Murray’s success in the UK although we are looking to grow the retail tennis product.”
It’s undeniable that the rise of the internet has greatly increased the tennis betting market. But as well as greater coverage, there’s one innovation that has largely been at the heart of this increased popularity.
In-play has been so great because it’s increased retention and given customers many more options to bet on. That’s been the case for all sports but the impact it has had on tennis has been especially significant.
Just read this from William Hill’s financial results presentation in February 2012: “If ever a contest was made for in-play, it was the Australian tennis final between Djokovic and Nadal. We made over £0.5 million gross win on in-play betting during those five hours and 53 minutes; and think what we might have made if Andy Murray had actually got to the final, which is a shame.”
Adams explains the impact that in-play betting has had for tennis betting at William Hill.
“In-play tennis betting has exploded over the last few years as people can now wait and see the match before deciding on a bet”, he says.
“Tennis has always been popular, particularly online but the growth in opportunities in-play particularly in-game opportunities, e.g. score in next game, who will win the current set, number of points in a game – means you can bet on almost anything whilst a game is in play and that greatly enhances punter enjoyment.”
Tennis’ time in the spotlight
As with all of forms of sports betting, the major events draw in the largest attention. However, while the expectation might be that there’s little interest in tennis betting outside of the grand slams, Adams explains that that’s not the case.
“Tennis is popular all year round, particularly online, although the profile is naturally much higher during Grand Slams,” he explains.
This bodes well for a sport that has previously only been able to capture the attention of the general public for less than eight weeks per year. The sport is also able to attract the big bets too with a £36,000 wager being placed on Novak Djokovic in this year’s US Open final.
Another reason behind tennis’ increased popularity is the increased access to that favourite term of digital gurus – big data. Tennis fits the bill for big data perfectly. It’s easily quantifiable with data and statistics being pulled from every match. If presented in the correct way, this data gives prospective bettors a feeling of inside knowledge.
The likes of Betradar have been able to create a partnership with the International Tennis Federation in order to generate live data which not only increases their live betting services but also increases the amount of statistics available to customers – something which is always going to bode well.
In the past year Paddy Power have had their eye on tennis after instructing ad agency Crispin Porter and Bogusky to create a campaign to run specially during grand slams. They came up with the Pigeon Eye campaign which has been seen on TV sets across the UK and has allowed the Irish bookmaker to get their foot into what we all expect to be a lucrative tennis betting market.
Given the increasing popularity of tennis betting, it’s highly unlikely that Paddy Power will be the last bookmaker to focus on the sport.