eSports: video-games and gambling

An increase in the profile of eSports inevitably brings greater scrutiny and as eSports continues to grow more and more questions arise regarding its relationship with gambling and the question of integrity in eSports. In fact, in March 2017 the Gambling Commission of Great Britain published a paper on eSports and discussed, amongst others, those two points.

Integrity in eSports

As eSports games are digital and can be played remotely, there are challenges around cheating and throwing matches that are particularly difficult to monitor and counter. Moreover, there could be potential issues around fairness where some players have superior hardware or software that could allow them an advantage.

These integrity issues are for the entire industry to consider. Ordinarily the lead would be taken by a governing body, however, no such single body exists in respect of eSports and, in all likelihood, there won’t be one as eSports are so diverse it would be akin to having a single governing body for all sports. That being said, the Commission has suggested that “challenge [of not having a single governing body] should not be used as an excuse for a substandard or relaxed approach to integrity.”

Direct gambling

As for gambling in eSports, it broadly falls into two categories: wagering on the outcome of eSports contests; and the plethora of mini-games within video-games that include sophisticated micro-transactions and in-game economies.

The wagering issue has taken on increased significance following the Commission’s comments and eSports organisers will need to be mindful that the level of skill vs chance in the game could result in the game being regulated gaming and that even if the game were classed as skill, a model whereby players ‘bet on themselves’ could be considered regulated betting. Notwithstanding its recent and relatively high level statement of principles, it’s too early to determine the precise approach that the Commission will take in respect of eSports on a case by case basis. However, we can expect other gambling regulators to take heed of the Commission’s stance and the industry should be aware that the regulatory headwinds point towards eSports and gambling being considered more proximate than, perhaps, most stakeholders would believe them to be.

In mini-games, players can stake in-game currency to win further currency and can incorporate elements of chance. Whilst they may be presented in such a way that bears no resemblance to cards and dice, they may nevertheless attract the increasing interest of gambling regulators.

The potentially explosive collision of games that appeal to minors combined with entertainment and anything remotely close to gambling, will ensure the wider entertainment industry faces more and more scrutiny from the world’s gambling fraternity.

It is our opinion that those involved in eSports need to be mindful of these integrity and gambling issues now and adopt a strategy and a model that will allow eSports to thrive rather than come under further scrutiny from regulators.