August 18, 2017
It’s no secret that the eSports betting market is a huge potential growth industry, with estimates that total wagering could exceed US$20 billion by 2020 within the US alone. But it’s also fair to say that eSports and gambling remain a slightly uncomfortable and controversial pairing for many. The UK Gambling Commission in particular highlighted recently that as eSports is unquestionably an activity that has a large following of children (both watching and participating), there is legitimate concern about the potential for minors to be targeted by gambling operators.
Within this context, it wasn’t therefore that surprising to see reports that well known Swedish eSports brand, Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP), has been forced to end its sponsorship deal with UK bookmaker Betway. Interestingly, NiPs hand was forced by the creator of League of Legends, Riot Games, who operate strict rules for teams participating in the tournaments they organise. These rules strictly prohibit teams taking part in its League Championship Series from displaying logos for gambling companies on their uniforms.
The NiP/Betway sponsorship deal was a highly lucrative multi year, six figure deal which was only announced in September 2016 so this is a significantly unfortunate development for both companies. Some form of partnership will still continue, but this will be limited to NiP’s participation in its core events related to the Valve title, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Sponsorship deals are becoming increasing prominent among the top and upcoming eSports teams. This news demonstrates the tricky tightrope that needs to be walked when signing such deals, bearing in mind the wide variation in regulations that can apply across competitive events for the major gaming franchises.