Facebook Messenger & Bookies – The partnership no one asked for!

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Horse racing non-runner insurance, better mobile portals, better odds or maybe no hidden terms and conditions. What do all these things have in common? Well they’re all considered to be less desired by punters than the ability to place bets using Facebook messenger. Now it is not just us matched bettors who are likely to disagree with the bookmakers priorities. Having talked to a few normal punters myself, a few greeted the news with disdain but most with a complete dis-interest.

Before I continue this rather contentious blog on the latest bit of bookmaker window-dressing, let me first provide some background and context. Paddy Power has just gone live with platform provider Onionsack’s industry-first chatbot for Facebook Messenger. Setting aside the rather shocking company name, the way Onionsack’s technology works is to allow users to construct bets as natural language written messages, which it is able to understand and execute. In addition, customers can also use the chatbot to receive personalised sporting updates through push notifications, as well as access Paddy Power’s array of videos, podcasts and blogs.

Paddy Power is very excited about this, because not only does it provide them with a potentially new marketplace but it does all this whilst having to hire the minimum number of staff possible. This is, essentially, a faceless version of the create your own bets via social media, i.e tweet a bookmaker a bet you’d like to place and they’d price it up for you. This system was hilariously exposed not too long ago in another blog of ours, which you can read below.

BetVictor’s PR disaster

I’ve spent most of the early morning reading up on the system and how it will work and frankly I am confused as to why Paddy Power thinks this is a step forward. Yes, BetVictor may have shot themselves in the foot but ultimately, they were getting customers to interact with the brand, giving BetVictor a form of personality – something which we can empathise with and understand. But, this step towards bots, just does not feel right.

Add to this the fact that Paddy Power are well known for being one of the most personable bookies (their social media team is fantastic), and this just feels like cost saving disguised as innovation.

We don’t blame Onionsack for this. Ultimately, they have developed a very clever platform that will likely make them a lot of money. But when their CEO states his chatbot will “provide a simple and more personalised way of betting” I find it very hard not to laugh – because from what I’ve read, it’s the complete opposite.

Don’t be surprised if in the near future you see a blog from us talking about how this system failed a customer or landed Paddy Power on the wrong side of the law when it comes to Facebook. I’d be massively surprised if Facebook weren’t looking at this with some degree of concern. Obviously, I will reserve complete judgement until I’ve fully tested the service but the idea of placing bets through social platforms is a door I am not sure anyone wants to open fully.

So, on the off chance Paddy Power see this. You’re a great bookmaker, but come on….chatbots….really?