For former MLB pitcher Michael Schwimer, what started as a data analytics firm meant to serve sports teams looking for an edge on their opponents has morphed into a unique service that guarantees bettors in the booming sports betting industry a payout – or their money back.
Schwimer, 33, is the founder of Jambos Picks, a subscription service that uses a model developed by top-tier sports data analysts to predict game outcomes across the NFL, NBA and other major sports leagues. In sports betting, touts, or self-proclaimed experts who sell their picks to the public, are traditionally seen as unreliable at best, often offering little to no evidence to back up their assertions or prove a successful track record.
“To me, a reputable tout is somebody that will never accept money if the picks lose, and then they have their full record with every single recommendation they’ve ever made documented,” Schwimer said. “Again, to my knowledge, there’s nobody else that does anything like this.”
With 19 states now offering legal sports betting in some form and the overall gambling market worth billions of dollars annually, Schwimer argues that a transparent service based on provable data, rather than an arcane or nonexistent system, is the key to improving the industry’s questionable reputation. To that end, Jambos has pledged to publish the result of every recommendation it makes, complete with time stamps, and offer refunds of up to $10,000 if the picks don’t break even.
While little data exists on the size of the sports betting tout industry, Schwimer sees the independent operators selling their picks on social media and other platforms as his chief competition – though he insists his team of data scientists has created a truly proprietary service.
To date, Schwimer has raised about $23 million for Jambos from several investors, including former Goldman Sachs executive Steve Duncker, who sits on the board of the New York Racing Association. The idea to apply data analytics to sports betting arose from meetings with executives for pro teams, who asked for proof that the modeling formula worked. Schwimer headed to Las Vegas to test the system at local sportsbooks.
“After 16 days, I was shut out of every major sportsbook and casino – shut out down to the posted limit,” Schwimer said. Sportsbooks often limit bets from players on a winning streak.
“That was shocking to me, because I’m used to the stock market part of the world, where if you want to buy shares in a company, you don’t get stopped,” he added. “That’s when I had the idea – 'hey, I can’t bet $300,000 on a game, but a thousand people can bet $300 on a game.' That’s what got me to Jambos.”
To predict game outcomes, Schwimer’s team has assembled a forecasting system down to individual player-level models. For example, data analysis might show that a certain NFL team runs a Cover 3 defense and that their opponent has plays and personnel ideally suited to exploiting that coverage.
Rather than make a small-scale profit by placing their own bets, Schwimer and his partners decided a subscription service would be more lucrative. After a lengthy test run that began in December 2018, Jambos launched its subscription service in August. The company has made more than 3,000 game recommendations so far.
A week-long pick subscription costs $250. In return, subscribers receive a minimum of 50 bet recommendations and $300 back if they finish “down units,” or below their break-even point. A 17-week package costs $3,000 with a $10,000 money-back guarantee.
Schwimer won’t rule out working with sports franchises on data analytics in the future. But for now, the potential windfall from sports betting is too much to ignore.
“We’re in constant discussions, but what we do know is, anything that we do with a team on that type of a level, we’re probably going to have to give up the Jambos subscription service and doing stuff like that, so it’s going to have to be a really good offer from the team to be able to do that,” he said.