Barcelona Summit: Betting in the midst of changing technology and social cycles

A captivating discussion on the generational change that sports betting is currently witnessing opened the SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital conference agenda.

Two executives locked in the eye of the storm are Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, and Sportradar founder Carsten Koerl, who were both on hand to debate 2020’s sweeping reform of betting’s global landscape and standard operating norms.  

Leading discussions, SBC’s US VP Sue Schneider probed the executives on how they have handled their firms’ extensive growth agendas amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former financial analyst, Robins – who led 2020’s biggest technology IPO by listing DraftKings on New York’s Nasdaq Exchange – highlighted that investors have been forced to question their customary practices.  

“Something remarkable has started to happen, and it’s the first time I have seen it occur in my lifetime,” he noted. “The stock market appears to be thinking beyond just reporting quarters.

“There is no sense in trying to predict a company’s quarterly performance. With traditional variables thrown out of the window, investors have started to think which companies are best positioned to come out of this when things end or whatever that might look like.”   

 Floating during a pandemic, Robins conceded that DraftKings value had rallied on “narratives of states facing major budget gaps, moving quickly to regulate sports betting and igaming potentially”, combined with the “rapid acceleration in consumer changes shifting from offline-to-online”.

 “There were no sports on TV, but strangely we had more capital than ever in DraftKings history, so I wanted to focus our team on what’s next,” Robins added. 

Under lockdown, DraftKings established three operating objectives –  maintaining employee safety and mental-health balance, continuing DraftKings engagement and relevance with customers, and preparing company leadership for future unknowns.

Robins continued: “On our platform, we quickly prioritised integrating streaming as urgently as possible. But, I never thought I would be phoning up Carsten’s company asking to put up table tennis streaming immediately.”

Beyond technical constraints, Robins acknowledged that a well-capitalised DraftKings cannot stand on the sidelines observing the social changes that have occurred as a result of COVID-19’s widespread damages across US states.

“There is a lot of devastation happening around the world, and we are in a fortunate position,” he admitted. “We chose to ramp up our focus on giving back, donating millions of dollars to covid relief programmes.

“For the first comeback games of the NBA and WNBA, we returned 100% profits to causes related to social and racial justice. It’s been a great rallying call for the team to use some of our good fortune and give back, this is part of our culture even more so now than ever before.”

Resonating with Robins’ deep analysis on changing dynamics, Koerl interjected: “I think that COVID has made us big fans of table tennis!” 

Jokes aside,  Koerl – who established Sportradar as the “company to reorganise sports global data” – told Summit delegates that the technology group had been working through a period in which all global sports stakeholders have had to rethink their digital structures.  

“Looking beyond the industry, what has fundamentally changed is how quickly traditional stakeholders have structurally changed to advance their digital channels,” he explained. 

“In my 25-years as a tech executive, I have never seen such an aggressive expansion towards new technology take-ups.

 “We have seen a great revolution in the last five months, with every operator, every team, media owner, governing body and federation trying to use digital services to engage with their audiences.”

Probed on ‘global sports returning to normal’, Koerl stated that he has instructed Sportradar development teams to simply accept that they are delivering their technologies and products in disrupted cycles.

“We are not treating COVID as a short term phenomenon and have accepted that shutdowns will happen, even if there is some form of treatment.

“Like workplaces, public environments have changed too, and I don’t see people returning back to stadiums. For Sportradar, there is a huge opportunity to accommodate this change, in which the buzzword will be personalisation.” 

For Koerl, the radical change in sports engagement takes place as governments are forced to reassess their taxation policies to mitigate the COVID-19 economic damages – a reality that will not only advance US sports betting but should finally place sports betting on a global regulatory agenda. 

“There are high overlaps in every market we work in,” he said. “There is a government demand for cash, and it can only be generated through taxes. This reality should accelerate market openings providing new opportunities. 

“For companies like Sportradar and Jason’s, the US is recognised as the place to be, where further innovations can drive real changes.

“Yet we are starting to see interesting signs and developments in countries like Brazil, India and even China. Every government has been hit hard by the pandemic and will have been forced to revise their internal frameworks, asking fundamental questions on regulating sports betting… indeed these are interesting times!”

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To watch the interview with Ralph Topping, log on to SBC Summit Barcelona Digital today. It is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit – https://sbcevents.com/sbc-summit-barcelona-digital/

 

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