Are Esports Operators Prepared to Handle Skill-Based Games?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last month, renowned esports gambling website Unikrn announced plans to bring legal skill-based betting to the United States which will allow players to wager on themselves. Players will be able to link their games to their Unikrn accounts and the platform will in turn generated odds for the player based on their profiles within the game. This is one of the biggest milestones since the launch of such skill-based competitive video games such as Player Unknown’s Battleground and Fortnite.

As much as the esports industry is picking up in several different areas, Ian Smith, the commissioner of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) is concerned that the industry is yet to be prepared for it. To be more specific, Mr. Smith is skeptical about operators like Unikrn having the ability to ensure the skill ratings of the punters match the abilities of those that are manning the game controls.

The Loopholes

One of the most notable loopholes of this model is the fact that some players may place Fortnite bets using their personal account then handle the controller over to a more talented gamer. Similarly, there is the possibility that some players may nuke the game profile and then hustle the system by placing a series of bets. To make it worse, the ESIC commissioner is still not certain about the existence of any tools that identify players and make sure that player is actually the holder of the game account on platforms such as Unikrn’s.

Unikrn, on the other hand, is very confident about the ability of its team to handle issues to do with fraud. According to Unikrn’s chief executive officer, Rahul Sood, the platform has been studying each and every player’s game so as to thoroughly understand the competitive ecosystem of all the games hosted on its platform. This might be the case especially considering how great the platform’s customer experience is – this is only possible by knowing the gaming style of each player. This information can also be very useful for the company if it is to maintain the integrity of the betting platform.

Is This Effective Enough?

It is still quite obvious that it will be very difficult to detect cheating in battle royale such as Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds than in other types of video games. This is primarily because these battle royale games usually feature multiple players all fighting to emerge as the last man standing.

Furthermore, data from these games are not very reliable because their results are not very predictable – most anti-fraud measures are based on the predictability of certain activities or actions. For instance, talented players can sometimes be easily knocked out of the games during the early stages and a less experienced player may, in some case, get lucky enough to win the game. Since battle royale games are not like the conventional esports betting formats better solutions are definitely needed.

US Legalizes Esports Betting, Approves Unikrn’s License

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last Tuesday, Unikrn, a gaming operator known for its blockchain-infused esports betting projects, had its esports betting license approved by the Isle of Man, a move that has officially laid the groundwork for legal and regulated sports betting in the United States. Esports fans both within the United States and some other international markets will soon be able to bet on various esports events including tournaments and championship matches.

Unikrn, which is the world’s first betting platform to be built entirely on blockchain technology has had plans to merge real-money betting on competitive video gaming with crypto and blockchain technologies. The approval of its licenses by the Isle of Man is a huge step forward for the company and which has already moved fast to deploy its crypto esports gambling services in 20 different regions – the company began rolling out its online gaming products to the 20 countries as soon as the Isle of Man approved its license.

It plans to follow through by offering esports betting to European countries, South Korean and other Asian nations as well as parts of Latin America. In the US, the company will be offering several types of esports gambling services save for spectator betting which is yet to be legalized.

With the new products, the platform’s users in the countries where sports betting is legal will have the opportunity to bet on major esports competitions like the forthcoming League of Legends World Championship. Unlike traditional sportsbooks, Unikrn will be taking a unique approach that will be based on skill-based bets – this will allow the gamers to bet on their game performance for in games such as Player Unknown: Battlegrounds and Fortnite.

High Hopes Esports Betting Market

The approval of Unikrn esports betting license is certainly going to pave way for more companies to venture into the space – in fact, a number of esports betting platforms already exist but they have yet to be officially recognized by the Isle of Man. Still, the market is expected to significantly grow further from here on out. According to Rahul Sood, Unikrn’s CEO, the esports betting market could be worth $9 billion by 2020 if it’s nurtured properly.

“There is finally a legitimate, regulated operator in the space that has a pretty comprehensive offering,” Sood commented on his company’s approved esports betting license. “It’s huge.”

For the esports betting venture, Unikrn will also be featuring technology from Bittrex, a US-based asset trading platform. Bittrex’s technology will assist Unikrn in establishing a system for seamless crypto accessibility for the users of the gaming platform. The company’s in-house cryptocurrency, UnikoinGold (UKG) will be the primary token for esports spectator wagering in the 20 regions where Unikrn his set to begin operations.

LeoVegas Ventures into Esports Betting with Pixel.bet

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Mobile casino specialist LeoVegas, through its wholly-owned investment company LeoVentures Ltd., has recently made its debut into the esports betting market. This move was officiated last Thursday when the Stockholm-listed LeoVegas announced that its LeoVenture’s arm had purchased a 51 percent stake in the Malta-based esports betting platform Pixel.bet for a whopping €1.5m payable through issued shares. The acquisition deal is expected to close in in the current quarter of the year through a new share issue.

The gambling industry has been rather laid back when it comes to esports betting, only making tentative forays into the space but this is beginning to change thanks to the explosive growth of esports in terms of attendance, viewership, sponsorships, and media coverage. These developments have pushed more gambling operators or at least consider the possibility.

“Esports is an international and fast-growing area that engages millions of viewers and players every month. With this investment in Pixel.bet we as a Group will gain a unique insight into a new and fast-growing segment,” commented Gustaf Hagman, the LeoVegas’ Group CEO and co-founder of LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group.

This is a huge step forward for esports betting and even though Pixel.bet will initially not have a significant effect on the LeoVegas Group’s revenue or financial standing, the acquisition is expected to pay off decently in the long run.

“In Pixel.bet we have found a passionate team of entrepreneurs who come from the esports community,” Robin Ramm-Ericson, Managing Director of LeoVentures and co-founder of LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group, said. “With its strong technology and mobile-first gaming experience, Pixel.bet is a perfect match for the LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group. Together we will drive development for the absolute premier experience in esports betting.”

The Pixel Holding Group has confirmed via its Pixel.bet entity that it is now ready to embark on a new phase of operations that will primarily be about “gearing up for a broader launch of its business”. Sweden and the Nordics are reportedly the initial focus markets for the company though it is still eying further international growth.

“We love esports. And we love betting. We want to create value for enthusiasts and add something truly extra to our community. Pixel.bet is, for example, the first to offer log-in with mobile BankID and instant withdrawals. In LeoVentures we have now found a unique partner and investor that understands and shares our passion,” stated Eirik Kristiansen, CEO of Pixel.bet.

Esports Betting Platform Luckbox Nabs Isle of Man Online Gaming Permit

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Luckbox has long been one of the top contenders in the Esports world as far as sports betting is concerned. More people have been attracted to the Esports scene thanks to the unique opportunities for participation that the platforms such as the Bitcoin-powered Luckbox have been offering.

Things are about to get even better for both the company and its customers following a recent announcement that the company has obtained its own Isle of Online Gambling Regulation Act licensing, making it the very first Esports betting operator to acquire a license of that kind.

The license that is now held by Real-Time Games Holdings Limited, the company behind the Luckbox brand, was issued by the Gaming Supervision Commission and falls under the umbrella of the Online Gambling Regulation Act (OGRA).

The Online Gambling Regulation Act ensures that online gaming operators carry out their activities in compliance with the strict regulation in the jurisdiction – this a measure put in place to ensure that the players are only presented with the highest level of safety and security when they place wagers online.

Luckbox chose to pursue the license from the Online Gaming Regulation Act simply because the license is considered to be one of the most reputable gambling licenses in the globe – it requires all player funds to be held in mechanisms that guarantee players of compensation in case an operator goes into liquidation.

In addition to this, the licenses will allow Luckbox to accept cryptocurrency, fiat as well as in-game items as currency for game transactions. It joins some other outstanding brands such as FullTilt, SBO, PokerStars, Quanta and 188Bet that are also holders of OGRA licenses.

“This is a significant milestone for our project. As well as building an industry-leading product, having a top-tier license is what sets us apart. It offers the best protection for players and opens up fantastic opportunities for us as a business, not least enabling access to compliant marketing channels, the ability to be listed on mobile app stores, as well as accessing traditional gambling infrastructure developed over the past two decades,” Luckbox chief executive officer, Lars Lien said.

“Having received the OGRA license, established a brilliant development team and now being confident with our infrastructure partners, I am confident we will deliver an amazing product early next year that will be very hard to copy. All in all, it is fantastic news for the team and all those who have supported us so far – we are so grateful for your help.”

Immortals Acquires Brazilian Esports Brand and New Sponsors

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Following several months of rumors and speculation, North American organization Immortals has finally revealed that it has acquired a popular Brazilian Esports brand known as MIBR (an acronym for Made in Brazil) which had been previously defunct for a little over six years. MIBR’s mysterious return on June 7 hinted at the June 23 acquisition announcement. Immortals further announced that they have hired the team roster for the Brazilian SK Gaming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team.

Among the players that will be competing under the MIBR brand are a number of legendary CS:GO players and champions including Ricardo “boltz” Prass, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip, and their coach, Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia.

As previously announced, the general manager is Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen and he will oversee the activities of the team as they relocate to the Los Angeles-based Immortal campus to train and practice ahead of their first competitive appearance on July 3 to July 8 in the ESL One Cologne event at the Lanxess Arena in Germany.

“Brazil is incredibly passionate about Esports, and this acquisition allows us to foster further Esports growth in what we believe is still a relatively untapped market in Brazil and throughout South America,” said Noah Whinston, the chief executive of Immortals and now MIBR. “The MIBR brand creates a direct link to Brazil’s national pride and sports and entertainment culture. We are eager to invest in the Brazilian Esports scene and to create a platform for the region’s amazing professional Esports talent to continue to excel and dominate.”

Immortals owns a number of teams that participate in some of the most popular Esports events like the Overwatch League and Rainbow Six: Siege. Still, the acquisition of MIBR is expected to take the company to even greater heights – MIBR is, by far, the most popular and the most competitively successful team to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Their return is, therefore, certainly going to be a game changer.

Partnering with Tinder and Betway

As part of the new developments following the acquisition, the MIBR Esports brand will be working with Tinder to bring together CS:GO fans from all around the world together through several digital and live campaigns and activations that will be exclusively for Tinder’s premium subscription customers.

“We know that gaming is a passion among many of our users all over the world, and we are excited to be the first dating app to enter the Esports space with Immortals as our partner,” said Levi Nitzberg, Director of Global Business Development for Tinder. “Tinder’s global presence and highly engaged user base provides us with a unique platform which, just like Esports, brings millions of people together to connect over shared interests.”

Also in the mix as one of MIBR’s partners is Betway, an online sports betting operator, which also happens to be a founding sponsor of Immortals. The online betting service provider will receive among many other things prominent placement in all the MIBR jerseys.

“Betway is delighted to support the revival of MIBR and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with them in bringing CS:GO fans closer to the team through exclusive content,” said Anthony Werkman, the Betway chief executive officer.

New Jersey Law Proposes a Limit on Esports Betting

Reading Time: 2 minutes

So far, one of the biggest sports and gambling stories of the year has been the United States Supreme Court ruling pertaining to the legality of sports betting. By striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the court paved the way for sports betting in the country.

However, while we now know that states are going to have the final say about whether or not to legalize sports betting, even in states where there is a lot of pro-sports betting discussions Esports betting still lingers in limbo. New Jersey has become the first state to speak out on this issue but, unfortunately, the state’s stance on Esports betting is not very reassuring.

The New Jersey state legislature this week introduced a bill that calls for a ban on betting on professional gaming and Esports events. To put this into perspective, the bill’s synopsis says that the law “allows wagering at casinos and racetracks on certain professional and collegiate sports or athletic events,” but it also defines “all high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games” as “prohibited sports events.”

On the brighter side, this ban will not apply to international Esports events where half of the participants are over 18. Still, these limitations have caused an immediate reaction from some of the proponents of the competitive electronic video gaming field one of the most vocal being Bryce Blum, an Esports attorney. The ESG Law founding partner took to Twitter to share his concerns:

“NJ’s sports betting law excludes ALL esports events unless they are (1) international and (2) more than 50% of players are over 18.

The law treats esports the same as high school sports, which is actually insane. Obvious problem w/ ppl regulating something they don’t understand. pic.twitter.com/WbzcULETph”

 

“This is a perfect example of why I fear any form of regulation surrounding esports.

Here are the bill’s sponsors – do they look like esports experts to you?

You cannot effectively regulate what you don’t understand. This could be just the tip of the iceberg. pic.twitter.com/rL8O0qvXm7”

Esports  Betting Was Just in the Line of Fire

Apparently, the bill was not specifically meant to target Esports and thus there is a certainty that the topic will be discussed and analyzed explicitly in the coming weeks in order to clear things out. One of the major concerns emanates from the fact that bettors are allowed to bet on overseas events such as League of Legends European LCS, but are prohibited from betting on the outcomes of local Counter-Striker tournaments.

Being at its earlier stages, the bill’s wording is certainly still very vague and its full implications are yet to be fully thought through. As such, with the apparent localization of the bill’s effect and its vague nature, it remains to be seen how exactly it will change the Esports status quo both in New Jersey and the United States as a whole.

Esports Betting Already Enticing Criminal Fixers

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Esports just like any other sports is unanimous with betting and as always, where there is gambling money, vices are not far behind. Putting into consideration the approximately 380 million people who will watch Esports games and tournaments this year, it is very likely that Esports fixers are already looking devising ways to get the best out of what is now the fastest growing sports in the world.

According to iNews, Esports bets will inevitably go over the $45 billion mark this year, a sum that is bound to attract the attention of fixers. Already, a number of Esports players and fixers have already, been banned and, in some cases, even imprisoned for cases of match-fixing. Similarly, last year, the Esports Integrity Coalition is reported to have received 39 suspicious betting reports with at least 13 of them being genuine fixes.

Apparently, no game is harder to detect fixing in than Esports since it is a product of geography, technology as well as its relative newness. About 15 percent of traditional sports betting in the world is fully legal and this makes it rather easy for anti-fraud and anti-fixing bodies to trace and follow betting patterns in order to identify game fixing. On the other hand, only 4 percent of Esports betting in the world is fully legal.

According to Ian Smith, the head of the Esports Integrity Coalition, the low numbers are partially due to the fact that Esports is most popular in East Asian countries like South Korea and China, where, as it turns out, traditional sports betting is illegal. Even in the United States where Esports has been going nowhere but up, 99 percent of Esports betting is illegal, even though with the recent Supreme Court ruling that revoked a federal ban on sports betting. Still, all these factors make match-fixing in Esports very hard to detect and even when detected, just as impossible to track.

Is Regulation the Answer?

New Esports games are constantly being invented and popularizes and this makes it harder to ascertain what should and what should not be regulated. This is unlike the cases with traditional sports where there is an abundance of history and data that can be used to inform anti-fixing bodies about criminal activities of this kind.

“If you get an alert in say cricket you can be reasonably certain – 80 or 90 percent – that there is something wrong,” explained Ian Smith. “In eSports, it’s kind of the opposite – because it’s all a little bit chaotic and new and changeable, about 90 percent of alerts don’t mean anything and only 10 percent do.”

The main takeaway here is that the institutional weakness of Esports makes it particularly susceptible to match-fixing simply because we still do not have a universally accepted governing body for the activity. The formation of such a body is perhaps the only way to keep the rapidly growing Esports ecosystem from being a serious criminal enterprise.

Gamelynx Raises $1.2M for Development of Mobile Esports Game

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Santa Monica-based mobile developer Gamelynx is has announced that it has raised $1.2 million in venture funding. The company intends to use the funds to create more mobile Esports titles that will be primarily tuned to the needs of hardcore gamers. This model is similar to something that Tencent did when it launched Arena of Valor, a multiplayer online battle arena game on mobile. In addition to this, the mobile developer will be creating team-based competitive games on mobile – the idea is to make Esports titles more accessible and global.

Gamelnx’s venture has received a lot of support from investors who include Y Combinator, M Ventures, Riot Games and Skycatcher Fund, Everblue Esports Ventures, Lyfe Fong, Leaf Ventures, Gamers.com, and Lithium. With that huge number of star power backing it, Gamelynx is certainly well on its way to achieving its goal of diversifying the offerings for competitive players.

“As the line between mobile and PC/console continues to blur, the portability and accessibility of mobile create an even brighter future for competitive gaming and esports,” Alexander Mistakidis, CEO of Gamelynx, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “At the same time, it creates a desire for less of the same. Many have tried to build a mobile competitive multiplayer game, but very few have made a game that was differentiated from what was already available to watch or play on PC/console.”

The CEO also pointed out that the company has been leveraging cutting-edge networking technology to enable fast-paced competitive multiplayer gameplay on mobile while maintaining optimal responsiveness and data usage. Gamelynx, which is set to launch its first title by the end of the year, will be merging their technology with applied technology in order to design a new combination of gameplay and watching experience.

The Esports market has bloomed and continues to offer more opportunities with many companies beginning to carve out their own dominance. Still, it is going to be nice to have some fresh entrants with fresh ideas and approaches to the gaming and watching experience.

US Supreme Court Ruling Paves Way for Legal Esports Betting

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

On Monday, the United States Supreme court repealed a law that prohibited sports betting with a 6-3 ruling that has finally brought to an end the six-year legal battle over the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. The ruling effectively opened the doors for legal sports betting in any state that wishes to offer it. However, it does not stop there – the ruling is also now poised to have some major implication for the Esports industry.

While the ruling did not mention Esports specifically, but considering the recent commingling and partnerships of traditional sports and Esports, it is undeniable that the correlation will result in the legalization of Esports betting as well.

“The Supreme Court just struck down the primary law restricting sports betting throughout the US. This will have a profound impact on the Esports industry and we’re so underprepared for it. ~$5B wagered on Esports last year – about to skyrocket,” Bryce Blum, an attorney, and ESG Law founder tweeted.

Clearly, Esports betting is already tremendously lucrative even though the majority of the bets are done illegally. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is expected to give it some legitimacy. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes that the ruling will double the value of Esports franchises overnight the same way it did for the traditional professional sports franchises.

“It doubled the value of the professional sports franchises in a second,” Cuban said. “It will increase interest, it will add to what happens in our arena and in stadiums. It will increase the viewership for our biggest customers online and on TV. It helps traditional television because it’s much lower latency, whereas online, because of cachet, it’s much higher latency.”

At this point, the inevitability of Esports cannot be denied and this puts the industry at a crossroads of some sort: are we going to embrace it or shun it altogether. We can all agree that gambling has its problems for sure but, as it turns, the negative externalities (such as illegal betting) are usually magnified due to the lack of participation of league operators. No one wants that.

“Some of the technologically advanced states will move relatively quickly, but my hope is that there’s a federal approach to it, as opposed to everyone having to deal with each state individually,” Cuban added. “If that’s difficult in the short term, I think it’d be really smart for the commissions from as many states as possible to work together to standardize things because that will enable the most creativity. When each state has its own rules and requirements that jacks up the expense for everybody, which minimizes the entrepreneurial and technology opportunities.”

GLMS Partners with ESIC to Safeguard the Integrity of Sports

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Esports is particularly vulnerable to match-fixing and we have seen a number of such cases especially due to the global rise of Esports. The world is still on a course headed for a technological singularity which makes many things very easy – since it is so simple to place a bet, rigging can, in turn, be just as easy.

Keeping this in mind, the Global Lottery Monitoring System (GLMS) and the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) have signed a partnership deal that will see them working together towards ensuring integrity by identifying and reporting any irregularities or suspicious betting patterns.

“Betting on Esports has been growing consistently in the last few years and the global appeal among millennial’s on digital entertainment is the driving force behind it. Esports and in-play Mobile Betting are a perfect combination of social entertainment and interaction. GLMS has been monitoring the phenomenon over the last 3 years now and we consider Esports an area to dedicate specific efforts and commitment given the impact on young citizens and society as a whole. We are very excited to support ESIC in its mission to tackle the integrity challenges within the Esports arena. Thanks to our growing network which guarantees local expertise and global reach, I am convinced that we can make a difference in the domain of Esports as well,” said Ludovico Calvi, the president of GLMS.

The GLMS was spawned from the minds of like-minded people who were keen on ensuring that integrity as a core value of sporting systems was maintained. The organization has since grown immensely and boasts of a number of hubs in Hong Kong and Denmark as well as 27 partners in several different parts of the globe.

“ESIC being the main integrity player in the field of esports is pleased to welcome GLMS into its network of partners. GLMS, thanks to its experience on monitoring betting patterns, as well as its global operations with hubs in Copenhagen and Hong Kong will for sure be a great asset in the pursuit of our mission. The expertise of GLMS in managing intelligence and integrity matters as well as its local presence in almost 30 countries across the world will also help us enhance our education and prevention activities,” said Ian Smith, the ESIC Commissioner.

The partnership is, however, not the first time that both organizations have worked together – they have already been part of a fruitful unofficial cooperation and information exchange that spans three or more years. Their new partnership will go beyond the monitoring of betting patterns as both organizations have also agreed to work towards educational programs tailored to raise awareness about the risks that come with betting on Esports competitions.