The Stock Exchange has often been likened to a betting shop, but now a Yorkshire company could be about to blur the distinction between conventional investing and gambling still further, with an automated system it says increases the chances of beating the bookie.
Backers believe horseracing could become as reliable and consistent as the stock market and generate greater returns for private investors.
Equotion Ltd, based in Ilkley, has developed predictive software which combs through 500 million pieces of information from seven years of past performance to single out the runners and riders most likely to win.
The company said that its selections are accurate up to 35 per cent of the time, depending on the racecourse, and hit 27 per cent accuracy when investors follow the betting recommendations. It added that more than 60 per cent of its selections are placed in their races.
But it stresses that it is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but rather a long-term investment designed to deliver consistent returns over time. Chief executive James Waterhouse said Equotion’s software moves betting on horses from speculative punt to general investment. In a world of low interest rates and uncertainty over stock market returns, he said the company could offer a tax-free alternative to private investors who sign up as subscribers.
Mr Waterhouse said: “The difference is the amount of knowledge that you have when you make the investment. We are able to analyse a lot of statistics and give you a solid prediction of what is likely to happen.
“Form guides will give you a lot of information but unless you have time to study them in depth they can be quite misleading.
“Trying to balance the form of a horse versus the others it is coming up against in the next meeting requires decades of experience.
“We take all of that away and do the comparative analysis for you based on 500 million data points. That increases your percentage chance of winning by four or five times compared to other tipsters.”
Mr Waterhouse himself likes a flutter, but, lacking the time to study form guides, he broke down horseracing into a series of mathematical challenges and handed them to technologist Ian Noble and award-winning data scientist Dr Tim Drye, a world-renowned expert in analytics.
They applied analytical techniques from the fields of statistical physics, the travel industry and online dating to devise the model for Equotion.
Mr Waterhouse has won the confidence of investors including Gordon Black, who recently exited High Street TV with a sale to Leeds-based investor Endless LLP. Also on board is Graham Martin, a third-generation bookmaker and online betting pioneer. They have invested significant development capital in the business.
Mr Martin believes Equotion has “the capability to turn the world of gambling on its head, putting the punter in the driving seat”.
The company is developing its service, which could be applied to other sports, to allow subscribers to manage betting like a share portfolio with suggested bets, auto-placement and race tracking.
Although it may be tempting to think such algorithmic wizardry would have the bookmakers casting about anxiously for new ways to ensure they continue to win – they routinely shut down the accounts of successful gamblers – a straw poll of the big bookies revealed a consensus among them: we’ve seen it all before.
The reaction of the spokesman for FTSE 250 bookmaker Ladbrokes was typical. He said: “Bettors have been using the best technology to hand to get an edge since racing began.
“We look forward to pitting our wits against the system. Its development is further proof how exciting technological developments can be applied to the age-old battle of bookie v punter.”