Betting on New York City Marathon gets sneak peak this weekend

Would race fans bet on 2017 pro women’s race winner Shalane Flanagan to repeat this year in the New York Marathon? Soon they may be able to put money behind that thought. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Add marathon running to the latest event to hop on the sports betting bandwagon. The New York City Marathon, which is scheduled for Nov. 4, is looking to artificial intelligence and betting to enhance both the spectator and racer experience.

Tata Consultancy Services, the title sponsor of the largest marathon in the world, is introducing beta testing for a new feature that will be able to predict the winner of the race during the race, as well as establish odds for the rest of the field and other race statistics.

Using TCS’ data analytics platform, called Ignio, the software will take data points, including an analysis of historical performances in the race and real-time analytics, to develop its predictions. According to TCS’ head of sports sponsorships, Michelle Taylor, these tools make New York the “most technologically-advanced marathon in the world.”

“We wanted to apply the tool to the marathon in a way that could allow us to predict the probability of which pro athlete would win the race,” Taylor told the website SportTechie.com. “We were looking at the race broadcast, thinking ‘How can we make this more engaging?’ Gambling is not the sole purpose of this, but people love guessing who is going to win and if we can leverage this cognitive automation tool and apply it to the marathon, it’d be interesting to see if we can predict the winners.”

While the technology is still in beta testing, it is scheduled to be included fully in the 2019 NYC Marathon. However, TCS may look to use the data in other ways this year, including displaying data on the live broadcast in some capacity.

Regardless of the degree of Ignio’s implementation in this year’s race, fans and participants can still expect numerous new and innovative features on the official NYC Marathon app.

The app will be able to direct race fans to designated spectator points, erase points on the map that are impossible to make in time to view a participant and use Google Maps to plot the easiest route to their next viewing destination. Additionally, the app will supplement this technology with a voice control feature that enables app users to look up locations of racers by speaking into their smartphone.

“The tracking feature is the most popular feature of the app because it truly solves a problem for spectators,” Taylor said. “Now that we’ve cracked the code on that and had some success, we’re looking to see what new tech is available to make the experience better.”

Allowing for real-time fan engagement experiences, such as predicting the eventual race winner and providing statistics to spectators through artificial intelligence, gives the NYC Marathon organizers the ability to get in on the regulated sports gambling action, an industry that, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, has the potential to add up to $400 billion in revenue.

Ross Andrews is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University

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