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Ryan Howard Sits on the Edge of Sports Betting’s Next Wave

What will the future of sports betting look like? Former Phillies slugger Ryan Howard is on the forefront of figuring that out.

Eager entrepreneurs turned into wide-eyed fans when former MLB All-Star Ryan Howard stepped off the Ascent Conference keynote stage. They huddled around him—some talking about business but most asking for a picture—but Howard is no longer playing the game that brought him legions of fans. He’s taking a swing at something else: sports betting.

“It’s something that can be a $250 billion or $400 billion industry,” Howard said. “Once all the bugs and the kinks are worked out, it’s something that has a lot of upside.”

He’s not getting involved as a gambler, but as an investor. Howard is a partner at SeventySix Capital alongside Wayne Kimmel, and they’re eyeing opportunities within the legal sports betting space. With investments in broadcasting, data gathering and analytics, SeventySix Capital’s portfolio offers a look into sports gambling’s future—and could hint at a coming relationship between advanced analytics and bettors.

And that starts with Shot Tracker. They employ sensor-based technology that tracks movements and displays analytics in real-time. Small sensors on players, in the ball and around the arena create a three-dimensional object, where Shot Tracker tracks location data of the player and ball within 2-5 centimeters. Algorithms compute and produce everything from shot charts to effective field goal percentage, and then that can be further boiled down into points per possession based on the number of passes.

All of this takes place in real time. The NCAA recently announced teams in the 2018 Hall of Fame Classic will have access to Shot Tracker for the first time, but it’s not only players and coaches who can take advantage of it. A fan, or bettor, can open an app and have a trove of information at their fingertips. Will Shot Tracker become the in-game gambler’s tool of choice?

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“That’s the million-dollar question. On the professional level, I would say absolutely,” said Shot Tracker co-founder and COO Davyeon Ross. “The future holds more readily accessible data in real time. And with the ability to do it in real time, it helps to provide opportunities that weren’t historically available when it comes to in-game betting or gamification.”

Pause the technological whirlwind for a moment. Here’s why this matters: Over 70% of bets in Europe are in-game, yet that number was less than 5% in Nevada last year. New Jersey bettors wagered $95 million on sports in August—before football started. Howard and SeventySix Capital sit on the edge of a potential explosion of in-game betting and bettors looking for analytical tools to wield against oddsmakers.

“We really think that the whole idea of in-game betting and wagering is a really, really big opportunity,” Kimmel said. “You see these different sports books today who are looking and trying to get involved in the whole in-game betting side of things. What’s hard is actually being able to do it right, and make sure that your lines are right, and engaging for the fans.”

SeventySix Capital is looking to funnel all the gathered information to the “experts” in the sports betting world. To that end, Howard and Kimmel invested in Swish Analytics, which offers sports betting and fantasy tools and predictions. And, surprise, Howard and Kimmel have invested in the fan engagement side, too.

It’s been called the “ESPN of sports betting” or, as Kimmel calls it, the “CNBC of the sports betting industry.” Either way, its name is the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN). Sitting right in the middle of Las Vegas’s South Point Casino, VSiN is equipped with a team of analysts, headlined by Brent Musburger. A scroller of the latest odds runs in the background while the on-air hosts break down lines in real time.

And, on October 4, VSiN announced the opening of a second studio in Ocean Resort Casino’s sports book in Atlantic City.

Here’s everything within the sports bettor’s grasp in the not-so-distant future: He or she gets into their car, listens to VSiN on SiriusXM on the way to the stadium, opens their sportsbook app on their phone, places their bet, walks into the stadium, watches Shot Tracker on their phone and employs it to make savvy, informed bets during the game.

Alright, maybe that future isn’t here, yet. But, sports betting will soon be unleashed from its legal restraints and the new-age bettor will have a bounty of real-time analytics available whenever.

“It’s going to change the way people fan,” Ryan Howard said.