Blockchain, Betting, and Big Data

Blockchain image

Online sports betting companies have an ever-increasing thirst for data, and therefore need to collect and use it securely to satisfy the demands of both customers and the recently-introduced GDPR regulations. How will the rise of blockchain influence this?

Who uses data?

The primary users of data are the sports betting companies. They use both general data (which pages are our customers looking at, and which of our offers are the most popular?) as well as personal data, where a customer’s behavior is monitored to record patterns in his or her betting and the type of offers they are likely to respond to. In theory, you can opt out of this by asking the sports betting company to stop using your individual and aggregated data. But, in practice, who has time to do that?

It is not just the bookmakers. Casino operators use data constantly to refine their marketing, and fantasy sports operators use massive amounts of data to come up with the best combinations of players in their daily sports competitions.

Keeping the data secure

As suggested above, data is one thing and keeping it secure is something entirely different. That is why the gambling industry is giving a cautious welcome to blockchain, the technology that, it is claimed, will revolutionize shopping and could do the same for the gambling industry. Combine it with artificial intelligence (AI) and ten years from now the collection and use of our data and our online gambling experience might look very different.

Speaking recently, Jackpotjoy co-founder Keith Laslop expressed the view that AI and blockchain will help operators gather “big data” but he said he feels that blockchain is still in its infancy. “Right now we are just scratching the surface,” said Laslop.

Just what is blockchain?

At this point, it might be worth taking a step back. Just what is blockchain? And how will it change things?

The idea for blockchain has been around since 1976, but it took the development of Bitcoin in 2008 to really bring it to the fore. It is apparently going to change the face of countless industries. But what exactly is blockchain?

According to Wikipedia, a blockchain is “a continuously growing list of records – called blocks – which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data”.

‘One-stop account’

Blockchain is a database existing on multiple computers at the same time. It is continually growing as new blocks are added to it and they are linked, so they form a chain.

Think of it as a medical record. Neither the doctor nor the patient should be able to modify the records, and that is how it is with blockchain – no-one can go back to modify the previous blocks. So, by definition, it is independent, transparent, and secure, and it will have a significant impact on sectors such as finance, retail, healthcare, and ultimately online sports betting.

In retail, blockchain will ultimately give online shoppers a “one-stop shopping account”. That seems like a good idea. No more needing to remember all those different passwords and, as far as this online sports gambler is concerned, it seems like a great idea.

Over the course of a weekend, I can place bets with half a dozen different companies. Passwords to remember, have I got enough money in my Bet365 account or do I need to deposit some? How much simpler it would be to have one super-secure betting account that allowed me to bet with every company and simply have one pot of money to deposit into or withdraw from. All powered by blockchain.

But that doesn’t solve the problem of data use or the problems GDPR is causing for several firms in the industry. “It is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller companies to compete and meet all the regulatory requirements,” said Laslop. “Meeting the new regulatory pressures is a huge burden for the industry.”

Blockchain may ultimately come to the rescue but, as Laslop points out, it is going to find GDPR a very high hurdle.