Getting an Edge in Sports Betting: Contrarian Sports Investing3 min read
Many people enjoy sports, and sports fans often enjoy placing wagers on the outcomes of sporting events. Most casual sports bettors lose money over time, creating a bad name for the sports betting industry. But what if we could “even the playing field?”
If we transform sports betting into a more business-like and professional endeavor, there is a higher likelihood that we can make the case for sports betting as an investment.
The Sports Marketplace as an Asset Class
How can we make the jump from gambling to investing? Working with a team of analysts, economists, and Wall Street professionals – we often toss the phrase “sports investing” around. But what makes something an “asset class?”
An asset class is often described as an investment with a marketplace – that has an inherent return. The sports betting world clearly has a marketplace – but what about a source of returns?
For instance, investors earn interest on bonds in exchange for lending money. Stockholders earn long-term returns by owning a portion of a company. Some economists say that “sports investors” have a built-in inherent return in the form of “risk transfer.” That is, sports investors can earn returns by helping provide liquidity and transferring risk amongst other sports marketplace participants (such as the betting public and sportsbooks).
Sports Investing Indicators
We can take this investing analogy a step further by studying the sports betting “marketplace.” Just like more traditional assets such as stocks and bonds are based on price, dividend yield, and interest rates – the sports marketplace “price” is based on point spreads or money line odds. These lines and odds change over time, just like stock prices rise and fall.
To further our goal of making sports gambling a more business-like endeavor, and to study the sports marketplace further, we collect several additional indicators. In particular, we collect public “betting percentages” to study “money flows” and sports marketplace activity. In addition, just as the financial headlines shout, “Stocks rally on heavy volume,” we also track the volume of betting activity in the sports gambling market.
Sports Marketplace Participants
Earlier, we discussed “risk transfer” and the sports marketplace participants. In the sports betting world, the sportsbooks serve a similar purpose as the investing world’s brokers and market-makers. They also sometimes act in manner similar to institutional investors.
In the investing world, the general public is known as the “small investor.” Similarly, the general public often makes small bets in the sports marketplace. The small bettor often bets with their heart, roots for their favorite teams, and has certain tendencies that can be exploited by other market participants.
“Sports investors” are participants who take on a similar role as a market-maker or institutional investor. Sports investors use a business-like approach to profit from sports betting. In effect, they take on a risk transfer role and are able to capture the inherent returns of the sports betting industry.
How can we capture the inherent returns of the sports market? One method is to use a contrarian approach and bet against the public to capture value. This is one reason why we collect and study “betting percentages” from several major online sports books. Studying this data allows us to feel the pulse of the market action – and carve out the performance of the “general public.”
This, combined with point spread movement, and the “volume” of betting activity can give us an idea of what various participants are doing. Our research shows that the public, or “small bettors” – typically underperform in the sports betting industry. This, in turn, allows us to systematically capture value by using sports investing methods. Our goal is to apply a systematic and academic approach to the sports betting industry.