Future Uncertain for AAF Betting Technology

The Alliance of American Football was a nice idea. From a football fan’s standpoint, it was nice to have something else to watch after the Super Bowl. While the action wasn’t always great (or even good), it wasn’t a bad way to pass a little time overall until it folded back in April.

While the league may be gone, it is not going to be forgotten anytime soon thanks to the technology it developed but never quite got around to fully deploying. Fans of the league will know of it from the app the AAF launched that allowed fans to predict what play was coming next.

The technology’s intended purpose was much more in-depth than that, though, which may explain why former AAF investor/owner Tom Dundon wants control of the tech.

While his lawyers will try, they will likely fail to gain control of it. MGM lawyers were smart when the company agreed to invest in the league in 2018. They secured their investment with a lien on the AAF’s tech.

Why Does MGM Care About This Tech?

The app, as it was envisioned, can potentially revolutionize sports betting by allowing sportsbooks to take the concept of in-game betting to a new level. Through the tech, data would be transmitted fast enough for fans to be able to bet on what the next play or the outcome of the next play would be.

Scott Butera, president of interactive gaming at MGM, described the vision of what the app would be in a USA Today article:

“What it will do, which is very important to us from a sports betting standpoint, is it will allow almost immediate transmission of data and what’s going on in an event to your mobile device, which will allow us to have play-by-play gambling, which is non-existent today.”

That aspect alone would be enough to revolutionize in-game betting, but the initial vision of the app wanted to take things a little bit further than just timely data. It proposed putting sensors on players that would transmit biometric data back to the sportsbook. This data could be used to create faster in-play betting markets than ever seen before while also giving oddsmakers an assist in setting the odds for every wager.

Data points as specific as the velocity of a quarterback’s throws were going to be tracked, allowing sportsbooks to see if he was getting tired and growing likelier to throw an interception. Not only would this enhance the speed of in-play betting, it would also open the door to new types of NFL wagers.

Not surprisingly, finding a way to protect the sensors in a game as physical as football proved to be quite a challenge all on its own.

With the timely transmission of data and the inclusion of so much more from the sensors players would wear, oddsmakers for MGM would be able to offer accurate, detailed, and timely betting lines unlike anything else seen in the industry.

AAF CEP Charlie Ebersol talked about the tech at a conference last September (via Sporttechie):

“This is what we spent a great deal of time and money on is looking at all of the predictive statistics based on telemetry, velocity, biometrics, etc., and then masking that from the end-user, so they’re getting an actionable piece of information that they understand.” 

Ultimately, the tech did not exactly work as envisioned. The sensors didn’t quite work as intended, and the data transmission was not as instantaneous as advertised. Data was still transmitted within a couple hundred milliseconds, but the gap between the game itself and transmission of the data (and lines) to fans was not entirely erased.

The gambling aspect was never added to the app, but fans could at least predict plays and see the result on their app before seeing it on television.

What Happens Next with the AAF Betting Tech?

Dundon may try to gain control of the tech, but it sounds like MGM lawyers took the necessary steps early on in case the league was to go under. However, owning it and doing something with it are two different things.

A former AAF engineer that spoke with SportTechie.com made it sound like MGM has something great on its hands but lacks the means to use it.

“The big joke about the ‘who owns the IP’ thing is that the IP is mostly in the heads of the team, none of whom work for the Alliance anymore. Basically, you’re buying the playbook. They own the source code, but basically, you’re buying the playbook of the New England Patriots, but not hiring [Bill] Belichick or the coaches or any of the players.”

Why does MGM Want the Tech?

MGM has not stated what its plans for the betting technology will be or how much it will invest into further development (if anything at all).

Next-play betting is not a new idea, but the detail and precision AAF technology would have delivered would have been a major innovation. The big question now is whether or not the market for instantaneous in-play wagers is big enough to warrant investing significant resources into not only gathering data but delivering that data quickly to the end user.

Only MGM’s people can answer that of course, but the question would probably have come up sooner or later in any case. Eliminating the time gap between an event on the field, the sportsbook and the end user would improve the in-game betting experience for everyone. It would also go a long way to combat the courtsiding issue.

Courtsiding occurs when someone at an event communicates information to someone elsewhere for betting purposes before the sportsbook can be updated. It is essentially a way to bet on the outcome of a play when the bettor already knows the outcome.

If there is no time gap or too small of a gap, “courtsiders” will have a lot of trouble getting their wagers in place before the sportsbook becomes aware of the outcome and closes the market. So, not only could the tech enhance in-game betting, it could also help protect the integrity of the process.

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