The Dallas Mavericks governor and Shark Tank star talked sports betting, tech, NFTs, the metaverse, VR, his discount drug company and more.
Mark Cuban is many things at the same time, all the time.
The billionaire governor of the Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank personality, social media star, and serial entrepreneur and innovator is never short on energy, opinions, or insights. That combination makes him a fascinating interview subject, and he was gracious enough to sit down with us at NBA All-Star weekend in Cleveland during the league’s annual tech summit.
Shlomo Sprung: Obviously the conference is all about tech and innovation. Where have you seen top-line innovations come from in the NBA over the last few years and where are they going?
Mark Cuban: Innovation never stops, right? Everything keeps on going. But there’s innovation and then there’s application and execution. And the application and the execution are the hard parts. And that’s really where we’re at. But as long as AI and semiconductors keep advancing, things are going to keep on changing.
SS: There was a panel earlier on sports betting. What’s your take on it and how the league is adapting?
MC: Well what’s interesting is just like with stocks, hedge funds are becoming quants and betting is being driven quite a bit by quantitative analysis and AI. So it’ll be really interesting to see where that goes. But betting for most people is more like buying Dogecoin. It’s more entertainment and activity than it is desire just to make money.
SS: Do you think that will change, or how could that change?
MC: There’s 1,000 ways things can change. But I think the entertainment aspect of it will come first with prop bets. And as gambling advances in more states, you’ll see resort-like, Vegas-like setups. People are smart in this business. So they’ll take advantage of the opportunities.
SS: Is there a role you could possibly play in getting that moving in Texas?
MC: Just online betting I don’t think is enough for the state of Texas, and [Texas Lieutenant Governor] Dan Patrick has said so, and I think rightfully so. I think resort gaming is going to be the opportunity for Texas because as great as The Alamo is, when you think about the one reason somebody outside of Texas would go to Texas, there’s not really a destination.
SS: What are you trying to do with NFTs with the Mavs?
MC: It’s really simple. We’re trying to reward attendance at our games. Rather than selling NFTs and creating a speculative environment where fans might get upset if the price goes down, we wanted to reward people for doing what’s important to us, which is coming to a game, getting there early and creating a collectors’ economy for something that they got to see. And we don’t promote it at all. It’s really just an organic community that’s popped up. And so people are buying and selling them and collecting them, and we’re coming up with rewards for the people with the biggest collections.
SS: What do you think could be further iterations to the team’s NFT project?
MC: It’s just like any collectible. There’s always a new sports card or trading card, and this is the digital version of that. We’ll just keep on coming up with more. But we’re not going to connect it to real life-type stuff, because that creates a whole different supply chain and obligation. But we will reward collectors so that the more you collect, the more you get.
SS: I know the Nets created their own metaverse, but it seems like you aren’t so big into that.
MC: It’s not that I’m against the metaverse, it’s just that anything is a metaverse. You put two people in the digital environment and that’s metaverse. So metaverses succeed when there’s enough people in a community to create a real economy. And so that’s kind of a catch-22. If there’s nobody there and if you don’t build a big enough economy, then there’s 20 people who dominate it. And that makes it more difficult.
SS: Is that different than your views on virtual reality?
MC: VR is different. The challenge for VR — and I literally have a patent pending in VR for a medical application and I’ve dealt with it intimately for years now — is that there’s not a day-to-day use. That’s what Facebook is trying to do. It’s trying to give it a day-to-day use, because it’s like going to the amusement park. You go on that roller coaster and you’re thrilled to death, but you don’t go back every day. And that’s the challenge of VR. You enjoy it the one, two times you try it, maybe they do some games, maybe they do some exercises, but there’s not a reason to use it every day. Until there is, it makes it a challenge to try to base the metaverse on VR.
SS: I love the roller coaster simulator. I think it’s great.
MC: But you don’t use it every day.
SS: That’s true. A couple more. Cost Plus Drug Company. Why is it so important to you?
MC: We want to be the low cost provider of — starting with generic drugs — as many drugs as we can because people are rationing their medications or they’re going without food, or medication, or rent. And that’s just ridiculous in this country. The system was ripe for disruption in just the way it’s structured. And so we came in and we’re not disrupting it yet, but we’re certainly having an impact.
SS: Lastly, I know we at Boardroom relied heavily on the @NFT Instagram handle and that got banned from the platform. Why do you think that happened?
MC: The @NFT handle? I don’t even know. Those guys were running it the way they were running it. They asked me questions from time to time, but I don’t know what went wrong.
SS: That was a really great and successful resource.
MC: I thought so too. That’s why I helped them get it started and invested in it. But I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t even tell you. I was working on the Mavs and Cost Plus Drugs. Those are my priorities.