SBC News Matthew Ball: Gambling on the verge of a Web3 odyssey

Matthew Ball: Gambling on the verge of a Web3 odyssey

Ahead of his keynote address at the SBC Summit Barcelona (19 – 21 September 2023) leading VC and NY Times best-selling author Matthew Ball states that gambling must accept its interconnected future with Web3 innovations… But don’t call him an ‘oracle’.

A new decade saw Web3 depart Silicon Valley’s zeitgeist and enter the dialogue and consciousness of modern business. Yet, the pandemic circumstances of 2020 were a scenario no one would have imagined for governments and business leaders to view the realms of Blockchain, Web3, and the Metaverse begin to intertwine with society… A reality all business sectors including gambling are now forced to reckon with.

Yet as debate on the utility of Web3 is entrenched by whether to “believe the hype or not”, few commentators are as insightful and honest about tech’s current status with Web3 innovations as Matthew Ball.

The author of the New York Times best-selling “The Metaverse” will headline the SBC Summit Barcelona (19-21 September) providing a frank perspective on where business and global gambling currently lies on its Web3 journey. 

Headling Barcelona, Ball is no stranger to the intricacies faced by gambling incumbents, having anticipated how US wagering would play out post-PASPA – “I was often working to prepare for that very moment.”

Reflecting on his experience as an M&A strategist for Chernin Group’s Otter Media, Ball recounts, “I played a modest part in helping to acquire Barstool Sports, which was bought by PENN Entertainment in several years, as well as establish the company that became Action Network, which was bought by Better Collective in 2021, a year after Barstool sold.” 

Predicting the transformation of US gambling, he noted ”these investments largely assumed sports betting in the USA as a “when”, not an “if”…”

“I was surprised by the speed at which that “when” came, as well as the immediate intensity of competition. The rapid rise of crypto gaming, virtual casinos, and real-money gaming was equally surprising too.”

Connectivity is the Key Driver 

 Yet five years on from PASPA, Ball foresees gambling adjusting to its next paradigm shift emboldened by the “new self-custody of consumers” who will interconnect with casinos and sportsbooks via their Web3 profiles “NFTs, or partial ownership in Web3 apps and DAOs”. As such, connectivity is key, outlined as the condition to “enable players to engage in a much more expansive form of competition and bet – and, frankly, help new upstarts compete with longstanding legacy businesses”.

Doubts remain, as despite spending multi-billions in investment and R&D, the valley giants of Meta, Google and Microsoft are yet to debut an effective Web3 or Metaverse property.

Ball recognizes that proceedings have been underwhelming, : “It’s true that reality has fallen well short of these prognostications, but the difficulty of building these devices has also proven far greater than imagined.”

“If you go back a decade, you’ll find many forecasts for how many AR glasses and VR headsets would be sold by now and all the fantastical things we’d do with them.”

“I recall that Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey imagined that by 2001, tablets computers would be ubiquitous, and space travel and artificial general intelligence both conquered. The first didn’t even arrive for more than 40 years and the latter two elude us. The future of wearable supercomputers is late, to be sure, but still destined.”

No Escaping a Web3 Future

​​Prognostics aside, Ball underscores the importance of strategizing and preparing for the changes Web3 innovations will bring to all business sectors. From a technical standpoint, Web3’s most significant offerings are permissionless interoperation and customer custody of their data. These innovations stand to redefine the traditional dynamics between gambling operators be it land-based or digital on their clientele, workforce and stakeholders. 

Ongoing adjustments to Web3 are no false prophecy, as from a security outlook Ball observes that “from 2020 through 2022, more than $47 billion was laundered using cryptocurrencies. Another $30 billion was stolen via hacks and scams, with at least $2.1 billion of this theft perpetrated by North Korea,  whose GDP is estimated at less than $28 billion. 

“At least $10 billion in customer funds has been lost because of legitimate organizations that, perhaps due to operating outside of typical financial regulations, mismanaged these funds.”

Headlining the Barcelona Summit, Ball cites that business leaders must clear the confusion on Web3 developments as the debate surrounding impacts and innovations have often been clouded by misunderstandings, as whilst the hype around the Metaverse, NFTs and crypto have dimmed, their underlying trends continue to be influential.

“The hype has obviously abated, if not gone negative, yet the trends endure and strengthen. The number of virtual worlds made each year, the number of people inside them, as well as the money and time they spend, and the cultural influence of those spaces all continue to grow.

“More importantly, the deployment of real-time 3D simulation and game engine technology continues to grow, as have their capabilities and business applications.”

Inevitably the progress of Web3 cannot escape the nature of hype or cynicism of a fragmented world it exists in and wishes to transform. As an author, academic and VC, consulted by McKinsey, Time Inc and Disney, Ball himself has garnered the title of ‘Web3 Oracle’.

Ball deflects the title, “I’m far from the first to predict the Metaverse’s arrival – and deserve nowhere near the praise of those that have been hard at work building it, especially under principles of openness. 

“Though I’m proud of my work, I’m happiest to hear of ways I’ve inspired, helped educated, or otherwise aided an entrepreneur.”


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