Incidentally, there is definitely a god, and it’s the one true god that my parents told me about and everyone around me supports the same god and it says so in the Bible so it must be true. The other 3,000 or so gods of recorded history are just made up and silly and if you don't believe me, you are all going to hell.
HST - “It's really a tool that has benefited the investment community”, says Peter Nabicht of Modern Markets Initiative. Nabicht is a senior advisor at MMI, a firm "focused on demonstrating the benefits of algorithmic or quantitative trading" and claims that HFT has lowered costs, tightened spreads and added liquidity to the markets, adding that "not all high-frequency trading is predatory."
HFT in itself is not a problem. The more people or companies trading a market, the more liquidity there is, and the tighter the spreads. However, the issue highlighted in Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt", is that of front-running, “in which the firms are able to quickly identify an investor's desire to buy stock, rush to buy it first and then sell it back at a higher price.” Lewis says:
"the market moves at two speeds: one speed for people who pay for access to the exchanges, who put their trading machines right next to the black boxes … and everybody else. And we are everybody else, everybody else being investors in the stock market."
The similarities with court-siding here are clear. Mary Jo White says that it “is not unlawful insider-trading” and that may be technically true, and court-siding is not breaking any rules either, but as the FBI, the U.S. Attorney General, New York state prosecutors and the SEC have all confirmed, they are investigating the practices of high-speed firms, and for a reason, which is to ensure that the markets are not seen as ‘rigged’.
"the staff, at Chair (Mary Jo) White's direction, is conducting a comprehensive data-driven analysis of a range of market-structure issues, including high-frequency trading practices and their impact on the fairness, efficiency and integrity of our markets."
Active in the financial markets are there are those who are there to invest and those who are there to trade. It’s probably true to say that the impact of HFT to the small investor is minimal.
Sports markets are a little different, but if you think of the pre-in-play punter as an investor rather than a trader, the parallels continue. The punter enters the market before the shenanigans of the in-play take place, and either wins or loses.
When the market goes in-play, the court-sider has an immediate and persistent advantage. They may not be able to match Virtu Financial’s 1,237 profitable days out of 1,238, but in the long run their advantage will be profitable at the expense of others. Air fares, accommodation and expenses for a trip to Australia do not come cheap.
When Mr. Nabicht says “I think there's a confusion here. I don't think high-frequency traders, professional traders, are competing with the general public. They compete with each other but not with the general public” he has a valid point.
In sports markets though, the majority of participants are not professionals. There are a few full-timers out there, and as the Australian Open revealed, at least one enterprise willing to pay for “an early sneak-peak at data” the rewards from which clearly justify the expense involved.
As with the financial markets, once it becomes clear that they are trading at a disadvantage, and it should be clear from the price movements just how much of a disadvantage they are at, any rational person would step away, and liquidity will decline. The market may not be ‘rigged’ but it is not a fair one.
As for the argument that spreads are tightened, this is certainly not true in the sports markets. The presence of court-siders means that they are, or should be, the only ones willing to front-run the markets, and they don’t look to back at 1.71 and lay at 1.7. The spread is more like 1.8 / 1.6. Should the non-court-sider wish to back at 1.6, he is either getting poor value (but may of course still win on occasion) or he will not get matched because the court-sider has had a sneak-peak and adjusted his prices.