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Kevin Smith

Shopping Odds with BetBrain

23 April 2003

As the head of sales and partner relations for odds-comparison site, Lars Dam-Johnsen has been at the forefront of a project seeking a better feel for the trends and spending habits of players.

The group has obtained a vast amount of information through customer surveys, but it has also learned much through its relationships with Internet bookmakers.

BetBrain provides a free Web service that enables punters to compare sports betting odds of bookmakers worldwide. The site's search robots update odds automatically every hour; then fully automatic filters select the best offers. Users can also subscribe to receive the offers via an e-mail service.

From the bookmaker's point of view, BetBrain introduces new and very active customers to their businesses.

BetBrain makes money on advertising and partnerships with the bookmakers.

Dam-Johnsen has monitored the person-to-person betting sector as well, and the gap between the odds available at P2P sites and traditional sports books, he said, isn't as wide as you might think. Nevertheless, it does exist.

"At almost all sporting events that we cover--European Football, American major sports, tennis, golf, horse racing, motor sports, etc.--we usually see a 15 to 20 percent price difference from the average of the more than 80 betting sites listed compared with the best priced," he said. "This was what we saw a couple of years ago and we still see this difference."

The odds vary much more among traditional operators, he said. As more and more operators try to cover their books, they become less concerned with discrepancies between their lines and those of competitors. Therein lies the value of BetBrain, and the demand for such a service is evident through its growth; the amount of visitors has nearly doubled over the last three years.

Although betting exchanges often have the best price for a punter on the surface, once other elements are considered, their advantage to bettors may not be what it appears to be at first.

Dam-Johnsen said punters should remember the commission charge.

"It has been easy to compare the price in terms of normal bookmakers, what you saw was what you got," he said. "Now you have to calculate the net price including the commission, which is often a variable depending on your winnings/spending."

The commission, Dam-Johnsen pointed out, is also subject to price competition, thanks to the rapid growth of the betting exchange sector. More than 60 percent of BetBrain users have one or more active accounts at betting exchanges. It should be noted, though, that the number of accounts held by a typical BetBrain user is between seven and eight.

"No doubt that the volume of money spent is increasing," he said. "That should also reflect the better priced exchanges."

Weekly Betting Spending - The amount BetBrain users spend per week (Source: a user survey conducted in January and February 2003; 585 respondents).

Dam-Johnsen acknowledged that fiercer price competition has affected bookmakers' margins, but pointed out that an increased level of sophistication among punters (in part, thanks to services like BetBrain) has contributed as well.

With the opportunity to bet from book to book with ease and compare various point spreads and odds, it is harder for operators to keep loyal punters.

"It cost more to get [customers] and it cost more to keep them," said Dam-Johnsen. "In my opinion, this is one of the most crucial issues, since the ROI is getting smaller if the customer acquisition is increasing while the customer lifetime is reduced."

Dam-Johnsen feels that specialization among operators contributes to price gaps as well.

Some operators heavily target bettors in specific regions; others focus on specific leagues and sports, he said. For example, if Sweden plays England in the World Cup, many U.K.-based bookmakers would have a lower than average price on England and a higher than average price on Sweden. English punters like to back their own teams, but the clever ones would seek the bookmakers who need to lower the price on Sweden and increase the price on England to balance their book.

"There will be a trend towards a more balanced market, but there will still be large differences between the average and the best price," said Dam-Johnsen. "Remember that some bookmakers often use the price to get customers, to 'stick their head above the rest,'" he said.

Additionally, Dam-Johnsen doesn't see an immediate pause in the increased consolidation seen in recent years within the online gambling industry. Oftentimes, he said, operators see consolidation as the best way to build the client database needed to succeed in today's market.

He also feels that more strategic partnerships with media--online, TV, interactive TV, etc.--will be formed in the near future. Such deals, he said, will be needed to lower customer acquisition costs.

Deals similar to the one between Ladbrokes and Manchester United could be formed to leverage the popularity of online gaming with known brands like the English Premier League.

In Part 2 of this two-part series, hear Dam-Johnsen's views on spending habits among different demographics of punters, how he thinks major brands will deal with P2P betting and what BetBrain is doing to respond to market demands and needs.

Shopping Odds with BetBrain is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith