For Rob James, running the technology for online sports betting business, William Hill, means everything he does has a direct impact on revenue.
“IT is very much a revenue generator and profit generator for the business,” he said.
“Gone are the days where CIOs or technology leaders need to think about storage and compute and what not. These things are now becoming commodity functions. We need to lift ourselves out of the data centre world and more into how do we add value to the business.”
William Hill is a 100 per cent digital business that allows punters to bet online through the website and mobile apps. It covers most sporting events in Australia and overseas, with Melbourne Cup being one of its biggest. Last Melbourne Cup, it received 1.1 million bets, with 1.5 million transactions – including deposits, withdraws, new registrations – processed in one day.
One project that James led over the last six months was developing the capability for in-play betting online and over the phone. Users can place bets during the course of a game on things like which player will score the next goal, or what the score will be in five minutes’ time. It is a more dynamic way of betting that allows users to first observe noticeable shifts in the game.
The in-play betting system on the website and mobile apps means the timers, data feeds, and payment transactions are constantly running.
“We’re probably remarkably similar to a lot of the fast moving financial markets. If you think about sporting events, the pricing data is coming in quite quickly, particularly during an event; lots of pricing changes as they change every 10 seconds or whatnot. So we have a lot of similar technologies to process data quickly, store it quickly through Flash storage, like Nimble, and hybrid storage,” James said.
Users who bet live can also leverage real-time metrics on the game, such as scores, and watch free matches being streamed online via desktop and mobile by logging into their account.
James said in-play live betting has increased William Hill’s turnover by about 20 per cent this year.
“This is quite significant. We delivered an entirely new revenue stream. We didn’t have the capability before to take in-play bets during a game online, so we as a technology team solved that problem, so now we can do that.”
Digitally changing the game for a business is what excites James in his role as CIO. Having worked in the startup scene for a number of years before becoming CTO at Echo Entertainment Group in 2011-2013 and then William Hill, he sees himself as being the disrupter, not the disrupted.
“Book-making is a very old school business that still has a long way to go. But there’s a huge opportunity there, and I see there is a lot of opportunity in gaming and book-making to disrupt the business,” he said.
“It’s an interesting dynamic coming from startups, because it really is a race – or it feels like it’s a race – and every day counts.
“In many ways, that’s how we behave in this business, because … the competition is very aggressive, and having that attitude of wanting to win, or winning through technology, is a really important factor that I think is contributing to our success.”