SBC’s VP Growth & Strategy Americas Sue Schneider attended SeventySix Capital‘s annual Sports Innovation Conference last week. Here she talks about some of the standout moments including references to ‘sub-second latency’, an ‘enlightened’ NCAA and interactions between David Stern and Nelson Mandela!  

SeventySix Capital, a leading sports tech venture capital fund, organized its second annual Sports Innovation Conference and Pitch Competition last week at the Citizens Bank stadium in Philadelphia and attracted a sold-out crowd. They had a solid focus on both sports betting and esports among other topics.  

It was a pleasure to hear some perspectives from folks who are not in the day-to-day sports betting industry. It was also good to see that the organizers had reached out to local college students and there were a number in attendance. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised at how many speakers and even pitch competition contestants spoke about “giving back” and incorporating that into their businesses.

A session on sports betting took place over lunch in a room overlooking the ball field. An interesting panel, moderated by Chad Stender, MD of SeventySix Capital, included Seth Schorr of Downtown Grand Casino, Matt Holt of US Integrity and Stephan Shelanski of VSIN (best described as the CNBC of sports betting broadcasting).  

Schorr began the discussion by saying that, as a monopoly for so long, Nevada sportsbooks “…have treated sports betting poorly”. He stressed that, for years, there was little to no innovation in the sports books. He sees that changing rapidly now and expects that new technologies will be rapidly growing.  

This was echoed by Shelanski who felt that users will demand such innovation. Schorr went on to say, as others expressed throughout the day, that new users will need a very easy user interface, what he referred to as “Sports Betting for Dummies”. Holt, from US Integrity, addressed the patchwork of state regulations saying that these differences reflect the way the states have organized their gaming interests.  

The event organizers saved the best for last with former NBA commissioner, David Stern, in a one-on-one interview with Wayne Kimmel, a partner with SeventySix Capital. With a steady stream of engaging and entertaining stories, Stern mused about his long history with the NBA.  

He served as Commissioner for over 30 years after 12 years as outside counsel.  He pointed out that he’s been around so long that he testified in favor of PASPA when Congress was considering the bill.

As was discussed a lot at the conference, Stern feels that sports betting will undoubtedly increase fan engagement. He expected that new viewers will be attracted to the games and that existing viewers will be watching more of the game. “This will make the leagues more valuable,” he said. “And it will likely supercharge salaries of the players.”

A barrage of questions by Kimmel illustrated how sharp and amusing Stern is. He threw out terms like “sub-second latency” in regard to in-game betting and, when asked about the NCAA, quipped: “What an enlightened organization.”

When asked about the highlights of his career as Commissioner, he was quick to say his interactions with Nelson Mandela were the most memorable. Mandela shared with Stern his philosophy that “…sports brings people together and keeps kids out of trouble”.  Stern met Mandela before he was president and subsequently attended his inauguration. Mandela clearly had a major impact on Stern and his respect for Mandela was palpable.

The other highlight that he mentioned was a pride of creating NBA Cares. He felt that it was incumbent on the league to give back and created this charitable vehicle to make that happen.