Winning at sports betting is tough – but is it impossible? Researchers from the University of Tokyo have been banned by bookies after their calculated mathematical system which netted them more wins than losses saw the team banned by multiple gambling agencies.
Neuroscientist Lisandro Kaunitz and a group of friends from around the world claim to have devised a system that allowed them to ‘consistently’ make money from betting on football games online. Their conclusions were summarised in the MIT Technology Review, which also describes how bookmakers nearly-guarantee themselves a profit on everyday bets such as football and horse racing.
The MIT Tech Review notes that when making the odds for an event, bookmakers will employ historical data and statisticians to wade through that information. Using data (which the team stress is publicly available in the marketplace) they created a system which identified betting opportunities that favoured them over the house.
The researchers then tested the system using a 10-year simulation of 479,440 football games played between 2005 and 2015. The sim computed a return of 3.5%, which if replicated using a $50 stake every time would net a profit of $98,865 across 56,435 bets. To confirm their findings, the team also completed a random simulation, and found that it yielded a return of negative 3.2%, the equivalent of a $93,000 loss.
“At this point we decided to place bets with real money,” Kaunitz said. Over a five-month period, the team placed 256 different $50 bets. These stakes paid off 47.2% of the time, making the team a profit of $957.50, a return of 8.5%.
However, the group claims not long after they found themselves restricted from betting on some websites, while some would ask for a ‘manual inspection’ of their bets. Others would limit them to very small wagers of around $1. Kaunitz complained: “The sports betting industry has the freedom to publicize and offer odds to their clients, but those clients are expected to lose and, if they are successful, they can be restricted from betting.”
“Under these circumstances we could not continue with our betting strategy,” Kaunitz concedes. A spokesperson for William Hill, one of the bookmakers targeted by the researchers, claimed that betting is occasionally restricted, “in a small number of cases”.
“This can be for a number of reasons, including bonus abuse and taking proportionately more than their fair share of special offers and enhanced prices, which are designed for the many rather than a few”.
But Kaunitz has aired that betting firms could be breaking the law by falsely promoting the likelihood of profits. Kaunitz said: “Advertising goods or services with intent not to sell them as advertised, or advertising goods or services with no intent to supply reasonably expectable demand but with the intention to lure the client to buy another product (a practice often called ‘bait’ or ‘bait and switch’ advertising), is considered false advertising and carries pecuniary penalties in the U.K., Australia, and the United States of America”.
Using data to improve your probability of a win is smart. You just need the data. Data is powerful. To find out how data does and will shape our lives, make sure to attend DIGIT‘s Big Data event, held on the 7th December at Dynamic Earth, in Edinburgh.