NBA Buys Equity Stake In Texas-Based Microbetting Company

Written By Dan Holmes on December 13, 2023
Photo of a basketball court with nVenue logo on a story about how the AI company has partnered with the NBA.

A Dallas-based startup that specializes in AI-driven microbetting has received an equity stake investment from the National Basketball Association.

NVenue is a graduate of the NBA’s Launchpad program, which allowed the company to adapt its analytics program to NBA games. Launchpad was created by the league to help startups thrive in markets that align with the NBA’s on-court and off-court goals.

The investment by the NBA’s private equity division into a Texas sports betting firm also puts pressure on the state to legalize the practice.

Microbetting still in its infancy as a way to bet

Despite polls showing that Texans want legal sports wagering, Texas sports betting remains illegal in the Lone Star State. A sports betting bill was passed by the Texas House in the last legislative session. It died in the Senate. Sports wagering advocates will now focus on the 2025 Texas Legislature session for new legislation.

Sports betting has grown rapidly since 2018 after the US Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It cleared the way for states to enact their own laws. More than 30 states have legalized sports betting in some fashion, but microbetting has not yet become prevalent with customers.

Microbetting allows consumers to wager on specific moments and plays within a sporting event. For example, what the result of the next possession will be, or whether or not a player will make a free throw.

The NBA and nVenue see professional basketball as the ideal sport to lend itself to microbetting. On average, each team has 100 possessions per game. The statistical outcomes are boundless on any given play: a basket, assist, block, steal, turnover, three-pointer, foul, etc.

NVenue is also planning to roll out a betting type that allows consumers to wager on which team will reach the next 15 points in increments, a sort of “NBA runs” wager. Customers could also place a bet on which team will score the most within a four-minute segment of the game, among many other types of betting.

The NBA sees microbetting as another way to engage fans, said Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s head of gaming and new business ventures.

“Microbetting presents an opportunity to drive incremental fan engagement within the live game.

“As a fast-paced sport with constant action, the NBA requires a unique approach to providing opportunities that are both contextual and personalized to how our fans are consuming the game. We are excited to roll up our sleeves with a company like nVenue, with its innovative tech and a great team, to explore this opportunity.”

NVenue uses AI to figure betting odds

According to its website, nVenue was founded in 2018 by Kelly Pracht, Bruce Sears and CFO Drew Williams. Its tagline is “Predictions and odds for every play in less than a second.” Sears previously worked for Verizon in the Dallas area. Pracht spent 18 years with Hewlett-Packard.

“We’re honored that the league selected nVenue to collaborate, design and deliver a new approach to microbetting for the NBA fan.”

A press statement from nVenue’s chief marketing officer, Christiana Yebra, says the company uses machine learning and artificial intelligence as a crux for its betting products. AI has been a hot topic recently, as companies scramble to stay ahead of competitors and utilize new technology that could improve their products.

As part of the NBA’s investment, Kaufman-Ross will take a role on nVenue’s board.

Photo by Shutterstock / Illustration by PlayTexas
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayTX with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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