A short piece posted to ESPN.com revealed the hiring of former professional gambler Bob Voulgaris by the Dallas Mavericks as director of quantitative research and development.
The last line of the piece, however, is incredibly compelling when considering the possibilities related to racing.
"The state-by-state legalization of sports gambling has inspired the NBA and teams to better harness information and betting expertise to create revenue, and advance the gathering of information."
Of the four major professional sports in North America, basketball has generally been the leader in accepting the growing legalization of sports wagering, with Commissioner Adam Silver regularly quoted on the topic. All four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) have embraced the value of analytics. Racing has a monumental amount of data that could be used to engage industry stakeholders in similar ways.
The ESPN piece continues:
"Voulgaris is known for his deep analytics and expertise on coaching strategy and tendencies of individual referees."
Could racing's data be used to extrapolate jockey tendencies, potentially yielding greater insight to handicapping decisions based on certain race setups? How do certain jockeys ride based on the odds of their horses? What are the chances a horse drawn wide will end up in a ground-saving position thanks to the decision of a jockey? The possibilities feel endless.
Racing has decades of data - in-race positions, sectional times, margins, etc - and all with market pricing attached in the form of odds. Dig deeper and the behavior of the betting markets is also ripe for analysis. As legalized sports gambling blossoms around North America, the scope of these analytical endeavors will only grow.
Racing has a chance to compete in this market. Each day that passes without a legitimate analytical solution available to the public is a wasted opportunity as the margin between sports wagering and racing wagering widens.