Gambling, Sports Fixing, and APIs

Here's an interesting online business you may not have heard of: Betfair. Who are they? They're the world's leading online betting exchange, a concept they helped pioneer back in 2000. They now have annual revenues over 180 million pounds Sterling. At this point they processes 15 million transactions a day (more than all of the European stock exchanges combined), and more than 300 bets a second. And while they have an API (our profile), they've been in the news lately because their technology Platform enables them to detect patterns that have helped government agencies track down sports fixing and other irregularities. From a report in last week's New York Times:

Last Monday, a report commissioned by the major tennis governing bodies recommended that 45 matches played in the last five years be investigated because betting patterns gave a “strong indication” that gamblers were profiting from inside information. And those matches, the report said, may be only the tip of the iceberg.

The match fixing might never have been discovered had it not been detected by Betfair, which has revolutionized online wagering since its Web site started in June 2000. At any moment, Betfair’s customers have $360 million on account and are at their keyboards, matching odds with fellow bettors in 80 countries. It is eBay for gamblers, with wagers being made in real time, usually after the matches have begun.

Betfair has brought a new type of transparency to gambling, especially sports gambling. There are lots of fascinating tidbits in the report.

On the platform side, their APIs are among the three we have listed in the "gambling" category. They have a REST-based Games API that can be used for apps like custom front ends and automated betting tools. Their SOAP-based Sports API allows creation of new functionality and operations not supported in their web interface.

The APIs come packaged as a range of products in multiple levels of support and pricing ranging from Free to Real-Only Commercial (£100/month) to Fully Transactional read-write (£200/month). The table below summarizes the options.

And in order to encourage developers to use their API they're sponsoring the 2008 TopCoder Open.

Be sure to read the next Financial article: Reuters Shines Spotlight on the Information You Need