Do you remember those Magic 8 Balls? You would ask a question like “Will the Patriots beat the Saints on Sunday?” or “Will the game total go over 48.5?”. The Magic 8 Ball would then give you an answer like “Concentrate and ask again” or “Better not tell you now”. Hardly helpful. Even if you got a straightforward reply, it was seldom correct. This left sports bettors scrambling to find other more effective ways to predict winners.
While we are still a long way away from being able to rely on artificial intelligence to predict winners with uncanny accuracy, science is working hard to achieve this. However, bettors must ask if this is something that the sports betting public really wants? While many punters think about how they could use such technology for soccer odds analysis, many fail to realize that it could easily spell the end of the sports betting industry as we know it.
AI and Big Data
Bookmakers have always used every shred of information they can access to calculate probabilities and odds. In most cases, the information they possessed was beyond the reach of the average punter. This gave sportsbooks a decisive advantage over bettors. With AI and big data becoming more widely available to the general public, the playing field is becoming a bit more level.
Make no mistake. AI and data science helps modern bookmakers too. Because computers can compile and analyze mountains of information in the blink of an eye, bookmakers can instantly post live and pre-match betting odds at the drop of a hat. They can also offer those sharp odds on a much wider range of betting options than before. Some of the most popular betting sites give soccer bettors over 1,000 betting opportunities on a single match. And those are just the pre-match options.
Overcoming the Unpredictable
When you read the odds listed at an online betting site, you get an idea of which team stands a better chance of being victorious. Sometimes the probability is high, and sometimes it’s low. The thing is, there are no guarantees no matter how big a favorite or underdog one side may be. Just ask those who wagered on Mike Tyson to beat Buster Douglas or anyone who said that the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey squad couldn’t possibly win gold. There are countless examples of this.
Scientists and math nerds can crunch the endless stats and run their algorithms, but the great thing about sports is all of the random stuff that so often shapes the outcome of a match. A bad bounce, a sudden gust of wind, or an untimely phantom penalty are just a few examples of the unpredictable circumstances that have always been a part of sports. Who could have predicted that Carlos Martinez would bounce a deep fly ball off of Jose Canseco’s head for a homerun?
While anything is possible, it’s difficult to fathom that AI would one day be able to predict those unforeseeable and random events that occur within a competition. Some things will likely always be left to chance.
Bookmakers Would Go Broke
Bookmaking is a business and an immensely profitable one at that. The global sports betting industry was estimated to be worth close to $85 billion in 2022. Can you imagine how punters having access to highly accurate prediction tools would impact those obscene profits? It wouldn’t just severely cripple the bookmakers, it would put them out of business entirely. After all, what’s the point of being in the bookie business if you’re constantly hemorrhaging money?
Bookmakers have always had an advantage over their customers. The sad truth is that most punters pick more losers than winners. If you add the odds margins to the equation, the sports betting public doesn’t stand a chance. The bookmaker is always ten steps ahead.
AI is already making the outcomes of sporting events more predictable. However, it won’t be able to account for all of those X-factors that impact the results. Not in the near future anyway. At the very least, such technological advancements would suck all of the fun out of sports and sports betting. In a worst-case scenario, it would also spell the end of sports and sports betting. Who wants that to happen?