Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More Data Woes

We've spoken about it several times here before, and I am sure you've seen it elsewhere - the debate about data. Where major league sports have embraced what data can do to grow their sports' - fantasy comes to mind - we seem to constantly misstep in racing. And it looks like we have another example.

This was tweeted out this evening:


A few years ago I sat on a panel at a wagering conference where the topic was "Wagering in the 21st Century". Beside me was a fellow named Dave Vicary, who was a retired programmer, and a massive fan of the sport. His presentation focused on getting easy to use, cutting edge information into the hands of fans to make the game more enjoyable, and winnable, among other things.

Dave was working on a program that used artificial intelligence (with computers running 24 hours a day) that he programmed to scrape factors in the past performances that correlated to a better odds line. His lines were ROI positive, and had factors that people understand, in a very hard to understand game.

He had several other ideas too, like being able to highlight horses on video through a user experience.

In general, Dave was an innovator and someone we want in our sport.

Because this venture of his needed data, he received it from Standardbred Canada. Tracks like Sudbury Downs or Woodstock Raceway, with handles around $7000 would be carried by his software and promoted by him, through his website. It seemed like a mutually beneficial relationship - a data provider and industry group working together with an innovator to grow the wagering base in Canada. After all, SC's mission statement says they are there to "promote harness racing in Canada and beyond". A year or two ago, he went live.

Dave was not going to get rich selling his printouts - that's just silly - especially for tracks with $7,000 of nightly handle. In fact, he was giving it out for free of late. In addition, no developer is going to spend thousands of hours programming for a market that is small like Canadian harness racing is (just ask app creators what they program for, iPad's or Playbook's), because they would be working for below sweat shop wages. Dave's work filled a void that would likely never be filled by anyone and possibly open up harness racing to a younger, tech savvy audience. The cost to our sport? A data stream that likely is gathering dust, or being used as a paper weight.

It seemed like a win-win, and it also seemed to honor Standardbred Canada's mission statement quite well; it's how things are supposed to work in a niche sport.

But apparently not. Right now it appears Dave's data has been shut off (including the personal account he paid for, and had been using to bet into the pools himself, providing much-needed liquidity to this Province's small harness tracks). Why, I do not know, but I expect they wanted money or a slice of his (probable) miniscule revenues.

It is surely disappointing, but unfortunately not unexpected in our industry. We've seen this played out, oh so many times and it is probably one of the reasons the handle clock on the SC homepage has been red each year since about 2001.

2 comments:

Pacingguy said...

Shame we can't play races in Australia and New Zealand. You should see the information they offer anyone; for free.

Anonymous said...

I could see SC getting uppity if he was selling/giving away past performances but he isn't, he is only selling selections/odds lines.