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Angela Ruggiero: Athlete data will inform in-play betting

Angela Ruggiero, chief executive and founder of the Sports Innovation Lab, and former Olympic gold medallist spoke at the recent SportBusiness Summit in Miami about the impact of sports betting on athletes and the technology sector.

• 700 companies in the quantified-athlete sector are gathering player data
• Ruggiero predicts this data be used by fans to inform in-play betting in the future
• But players and unions will want a cut of league integrity fees

Your company tracks where sports and technology meet. What sort of companies will thrive now that betting has been legalised?

Obviously, everyone is talking about blockchain, but it is the future. I think there are a lot of fan engagement companies emerging and blockchain is an enabler for the fan – and especially for making fans feel that their bets are secure. One area that is ahead of betting – ahead in terms of size of the market – is the data coming off athletes. For the first time we’re seeing athlete heart rates transmitted in real-time and there are literally hundreds of companies emerging in what’s called the quantified athlete sector. These are creating new ways of engaging with fans and betting is another natural direction for this part of the market to take.

Do you see transmission of player data during a game as part of the engagement around betting? Could fans be allowed to see if someone is calm or high-energy during a match and use that to inform their in-play bets?

Absolutely. That’s what everyone wants. There are 700 companies in the quantified-athlete space – companies that are monitoring, measuring, predicting performance, preventing injury. That’s data and that data will 100% inform the sport bettor. It’s another data stream that’s engaging, and even if you’re not betting, it’s interesting, you’re more likely to watch. I definitely think these markets will merge.

How much should players share the revenues from the deals leagues and teams strike with betting operators?

The rumoured integrity fees of 1%, 0.2%, whatever they end up being, they’re called integrity fees but they’re really a revenue share. Those are new fees coming into the league and I think the athletes, and the unions in particular, are going to see them as an additional revenue stream and they’re going to want their cut. I think the revenue distribution is going to be a hot topic because if there are new sponsors coming into the league, or new integrity fees, or new ways the league is profitable, then the athletes are going to want to participate.

Should players be allowed to bet on their sport?

Assuming you can get past that hurdle where athletes are happy with what that new business model looks like, I personally don’t think they should be allowed to bet on their own sport. When you’re in the locker room, you get inside information, not just on your team but all the other teams in the league, so I think they should not be allowed to bet on their own sport. The question is whether they should be allowed to bet on all the other sports, because you still move in the same circles as a lot of these athletes from other sports and you still have inside information.

I sit on the Athlete’s Commission for the IOC and we’ve seen athletes that bet on their own sport, including US athletes, and they’re oblivious – they don’t even know that’s illegal – so there’s going to be a tremendous amount of educating to ensure athletes don’t do things that are illegal. But I think that’s the easiest part of the discussion – it’s the revenue share I’m most worried about.

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