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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday December 4, 2020

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The WTA and Stats Performs announced a new deal that places a lot of emphasis on establishing synergy with betting houses.

Photo Source: WTA

Gambling promises to be a bigger part of the WTA’s near-term future.

With the recent announcement of a six-year deal with Stats Perform, which bills itself as the “world’s largest sports-focused AI team,” the WTA will incorporate an increased level of live insight and analytics to thousands of WTA matches starting in 2021.

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In the “Unpacked” podcast with Bret McCormick this week, WTA President Micky Lawler discussed the deal and its implications with regard to sports betting.

"I think sports betting has always been very important in tennis,” she said. “I remember in the early days, in the late eighties when I went to Hong Kong, how much betting played a big role in the sport, and you know, how surprising it was."

The sport has recently made moves to better capitalize on its standing as one of the most popular among bettors. With the tour suffering due to cancellations and lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a willingness to look for ways to exploit the sport’s popularity.

"I spoke to a lot of people in this space and they said that tennis was of course big. It's global, it's year-round so it's very important and in many markets it is the No.2 sport for betting,” Lawler told McCormick. “So for us we begin working on data and making sure that the data that served as a foundation for odds and for the betting consumer was real and legitimate data, and not illegally captured from the courts."

Lawler says that integrity, first and foremost, sets the tone.

"So, we invested, and as you know, as a sport, tennis has invested hugely in the integrity of the sport, in the international tennis integrity agency, which was newly founded and is the successor to the tennis integrity unit, so I think as countries come back from Covid financially, the tax dollars are going to be important, they will be important to every sport because if we represent an important business to the betting consumer and the betting houses, than we have to work closely with them and make sure that the value is captured, but also that it's absolutely above the line and that nothing strange is happening.”

The deal with Stats Perform isn’t only about betting. But the fact that the words bettors or betting were mentioned five times in a recent 470-word press release to confirm the deal is a clear indication.

WTA CEO talked with Simon Cambers of Tennis Majors this week about the subject. He says that betting can be an engine of growth for the tour.

"The United States as an example, it’s booming over here," he said. "So your perception will change based upon where you are and how you’ve dealt with it. I think it’s like anything else. It’s dealing with it responsibly. It (betting) is part of it. It brings great viewership, it enhances viewership, we found, bringing new viewers to it. But now, how do you do it responsibly?"

"The WTA has very ambitious goals for their tournaments and players and we’re proud to be trusted to help them reach new levels of fan and bettor engagement.” said Carl Mergele, CEO of Stats Perform.. Our broadcaster, media, and betting networks are already excited because they’ve seen how high-quality information elevates sport’s appeal."

“The data feed will support Stats Perform’s advanced AI capabilities which will be leveraged to help bring fans closer to the sport through engaging data-driven insights and stories,” the joint statement, sent via email to Tennis Now, reads.

“Through these unique insights, fans will be able to get to know the players and the game at a much deeper level. The data also enhances Stats Perform’s existing live WTA video streaming service to help create the ultimate experience in trusted and entertaining in-play betting. Stats Perform’s extensive sports content distribution capabilities will improve the availability of official WTA data to make it more accessible for authorized sportsbooks, broadcasters, OTT, media, sponsors, tech and fantasy games, giving fans and bettors fast, detailed and accurate tennis data.”

Lawler says that the American market is opening and more relationships between the tour and betting houses are on the horizon.

"They want to have this as transparent as is possible and they are very interested in investing in education and safe betting, so I think yes, you know, as the American market is opening up we are going to see more and more relationships, because the betting operators want to have a close relationship with the sports -- the interests are aligned."


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