Editor’s note: This interview first appeared in Human Capital, a newsletter by Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell about the people who shape the financial regulatory space.
It’s been a few weeks since the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for states to legalize sports gambling, but actor Zack Ward isn’t a fan. He thinks sports gamblers should stop betting — and start investing instead.
Ward wants to ensure the AllSportsMarket (ASM) exchange — an experimental offering that allows investors to buy and sell shares of sports teams — gets a go-ahead from the SEC. He believes sports betting has a “massive downside: It corrupts people, the game, the players.”
On the heels of the Supreme Court ruling in mid-May, states are already rolling the dice on professional sports betting. Ward — who is CEO of Global Sports Financial Exchange and has appeared in TV shows and in films including “A Christmas Story” and “Transformers” — chatted with me via phone Thursday from his home in Studio City, California. He is shooting a TV series in Washington state called “Z Nation,” an action/drama zombie series.
The ASM exchange is operated by The New Sports Economy Institute, a California nonprofit.
Ward’s main beef with sports betting: “It doesn’t increase the GDP, it sucks money like a vacuum and goes into offshore accounts. It’s the opposite of what the country needs.”
Offshore sports betting is a “$200 to $400 billion” market, Ward said. Creating an exchange in the United States offers an “alternative to gambling, creates another revenue stream for teams, for the leagues, individuals, and helps [facilitate] financial literacy.”
As it stands now, there are two ways to play on the ASM exchange: a “learning market” where investors get $2,500 in free money to learn the ropes, and a “real money” or “pilot market” version, where investors can put in $2,500 per year to buy shares in teams in the NHL, NFL, MLB and NBA — and the shares “go up and down based on their [team’s] performance,” Ward said.
The winning team’s shareholders get a dividend, and the losing team’s share price likely goes down, the website explains. “You own your shares in perpetuity,” Ward continued, “whether or not your team changes their name, your shares travel with them.” Who’s using the exchange now: “about 7,500 sports traders in 93 countries,” Ward said.
Ward and his team have been checking in with the SEC for a couple of years — their latest conversation with the Division of Trading and Markets took place Thursday morning — about the ASM exchange.
The ASM team, Ward said, is “100% transparent” with the securities regulator, with the goal to be “a fully regulated exchange.”
ASM plans to file within the next 30 to 45 days a Form 1 with the SEC to register as a national securities exchange.
The timeline for SEC approval after the form is submitted is 90 days.
What do the sports leagues say about the ASM exchange? “They want to see what the SEC says and the SEC wants to see what they say. We got the platform up and running so we could show it to the SEC, get their approval, make sure we were 100% transparent” and continue conversations with the leagues.
And it all runs on blockchain technology, “a decentralized ledger that’s 100% transparent,” Ward said. “That way, when we are launched and fully regulated, we have something that can’t be manipulated.”
While “acting has always been and ambition, and something I love,” Ward said, AllSportsMarket “has become my mission.”
His celebrity cachet gets him in the door and helps “open up the conversation that there are alternatives to gambling.”
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