Friday, June 25, 2010

Bettors Develop Software - The Power of Free Data

Today the winners of the software developer challenge were announced by Trackmaster. Trackmaster created a contest whereby bettors could develop and test their own systems, with the hope that if they won, they would be able to market their software as a third party vendor. They did something different this time, however. They offered out test data for free. This data would normally cost thousands of dollars.

From Trackmaster's press release:

"The selected programs — two pertaining to Thoroughbred racing and one geared to harness racing — were developed by Dan Ligett of Amherst, New York; Dave Richardson of Ottawa, Ontario; and Mike Orlando of Marple, Pennsylvania.

Each of the three developers will be offered a revenue-sharing agreement with TrackMaster whereby his software program will be incorporated into TrackMaster’s menu of handicapping products on

“Through ongoing interaction with our customers, we knew that many horse racing enthusiasts had developed programs to help analyze races, but never put the finishing touches on such applications to make them commercially acceptable,” said TrackMaster President David Siegel. “In addition, there are many statistically oriented individuals outside of racing who simply have a fascination with predictive models. This contest also gave these individuals an opportunity to apply their knowledge and interest for possible profit.”

One line in the release caught our eye (emphasis ours): “I've been developing my own handicapping software as a hobby since 2007, but the biggest problem I’ve faced is having enough data to properly calibrate and test the system,” said Ligett. “The data provided as part of the contest is just what I needed to move the idea forward.”

Horseplayers have been saying this for well over a decade now. They want to develop their own software, they want to develop software for sale and promote it (and racing). Most of all, they want to bet more on horses with their systems. But, the data to test run their work, or to even start developing their software can cost many thousands of dollars. Who will spend many thousands of dollars and hundreds upon hundreds of hours on something they don't even know that will work? A lot of them throw up their hands and move on to something else.

In baseball and football there are hundreds of software packages, for fantasy, betting and more. Each one promotes the game in their own way. The data for that is all free. On poker sites everywhere you can download hand histories all for free and develop software with that. Betting giant Betfair - from day one - has offered all their trading exchange data out for no charge, as well as offering an API. Today there are literally thousands of software and betting systems for that company, developed by people like me and you.

Trackmaster did the right thing - they offered out data for free - and people responded.

I wonder if we can not see more of this, or at least have better data prices in the future to promote our game to a new market? Let's hope so, because its worked for a lot of other sports and games. Our sport should not slam the door in people's faces who want to sell and promote our game, as well as bet it - we simply can't afford to.

1 comment:

Robin Howlett said...

I entered this contest to get the data for testing but I did not submit as an entry as I felt the sales terms were too advantageous to Equibase/Trackmaster.

Interested in seeing the winning entries though.