Esports is rapidly becoming the place to go for people who want to catch the future wave of gambling. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the numbers currently being wagered. Five years ago, the esports market was not even a thought with regard to gaming. Now, with companies such as Unikrn –which is an esports company with its roots in gaming, this market is taking in money by the billions. A recent research survey indicated that approximately $6.7 billion was bet in 2017 on esports, both legally and illegally. The question is, what is the potential for esports, and how will games be regulated to ensure game integrity.
The Rise of Esports
Esports began as a way for people to be competitive in video games, forming their own teams and playing against each other. Gradually, the team play grew into local tournaments, then state and national tournaments followed. Players began to make videos of their play and post them online. Online views of tournaments reached into the thousands, and tournaments began to be scheduled at large event venues, such as Madison Square Garden, which sold out at a recent event. In addition, esports tournaments have huge prizes for the winning team, with some global Call of Duty, Counterstrike, and Halo tournament prizes totaling in the tens of millions of dollars.
Gambling on Esports
With the increasing popularity of esports comes the onset of gambling on esports. Unikrn offers real money gambling on esports tournaments in areas where it is legal, such as in the UK and Australia, while allowing the use of cryptocurrency for venues where esports gambling is not yet legal. It is expected that many areas in the United States will have legalized gambling on esports by 2020.
The largest problem with gambling on esports now is the volatility of the cryptocurrency world, which makes it difficult for people and companies to bet and receive a return of their bets at the same or at a greater amount than was originally registered.
Many companies are trying to capitalize on the esports betting trend. PlayNow, a British Columbia website, has rapidly grown in popularity because it allows betting on esports tournaments. The company has seen as 600% increase in total wagers, although the esports trend is still lagging behind more traditional sports such as soccer and hockey.
Growing Concern for Integrity of Esports
Initially, the esports gamers were able to hold honest tournaments, because the number of players and tournaments was small. But with the growing popularity of esports and gambling on esports, issues such as cheating and match fixing have increased, which are a problem not only for esports but for all sports in general.
Interestingly, the integrity of gameplay is not as compromised in esports as it is in other sports. For example, Alexei Berezin, a gamer from Russia, was banned for life after he admitted betting on his own esports team in 2013. However, within the year, the ban was lifted and he is now on one of the most popular and winningest teams in the Russian republic. Two Malaysian players were not as lucky. They were permanently banned from tournaments in the country for fixing a tournament of people playing DOTA 2.
One of the problems with trying to maintain the integrity of esports is that the sport is growing faster than any regulatory organization’s ability to control it . While other sports, such as major league football, had rules and an organization before play began, that has not been the case with esports, which had players begin playing before there was tournament play or gambling on esports. However, there are organizations currently working to protect the integrity of esports tournaments.
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