“Mahatma Gandhi isn’t running Riot” – The future of ethical esports betting

Posted on December 14, 2020

Esports betting is on the rise. 2020 has been a unique challenge for many people, millions have been stuck at home for months on end. With nothing to do they might be looking for something to spice up their day, add a bit of excitement to their routine. So, they turn to betting.

We here at EsportsBets try to demystify what can sometimes be a rather opaque system. The big players in esports betting are not always the most well-known global bookmakers and sites like ours are useful for people looking to understand the industry.

The esports betting industry is young, and in many countries either unregulated or poorly understood. This opens the floodgates for a host of grey or black-market betting sites to take advantage of the industry. The real question going forward is: “Who is responsible for the regulation of the industry?”

On December 10th, SEON hosted a webinar with some of the major players in the esports betting industry to look at its future.

  • Co-founder and CEO of esports brand Rivalry, Steven Saltz.
  • Industry expert Ian Smith, commissioner at the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC)
  • MD of The Esports Insider, Sam Cooke.

Together with the host of the event, Daniel Sebe, they discussed the future of the fledgling industry.

esports-responsibility-seon-webinar
Seon Webinar

The ethics of advertising

“Would you consider a 17-year-old Fnatic player wearing a gambling operators’ logo a public endorsement of underage betting?”

This very direct question was put to the panel, while this is not an issue in regulated markets (it is illegal in many jurisdictions for underage players to advertise betting sites or gambling operators), the underlying issue of the promotion of betting by esports teams and organisations.

In response to the question, Ian Smith said, “We don’t allow players to bet on any match in the game in which they are a professional. That creates an issue with promotional advertising. Let’s say you are a Counterstrike pro, there may not be any issue with your age, but can you promote betting on Counterstrike if you are prohibited from betting yourself.” He went on to say, “I regard this as a regulatory issue … now there is a moral issue or ethical issue that the individual operator, team, player can take but I am not the moral guardian of the esports world. That’s not my job, I don’t have that hubris.”

The consensus of the panel was that the ethical decision making with regards to esports betting was the responsibility of the organisations that advertised the products.

 

Who has the most influence on esports betting?

“Betting on esports titles will happen anyway, it is far better that the game studios work with regulators”. This was a quote from Sam Cooke, and it touches on the effect that games studios have on the esports betting scene. He talked about the lax attitude that the companies take with esports betting, almost as if by ignoring the industry, they won’t have to deal with it. He used the developer of Rocket League Psyonix as an example:

“When UNIKRN offered odds on Rocket League around 2016, they put out a press release which we and many others in the trade press published ‘This bookmaker now offers odds on Rocket League, what does that mean?’ It was interesting for the development of Rocket Leagues ecosystem. Never got a quicker response, within 12 hours, possibly less there was a release from Psyonix Studios saying, ‘We do not endorse betting on our product.’ … I love Rocket League, but you can’t stop that.”

The crux of their arguments boiled down to the viability of regulation. Companies are designed to make profits and until companies can make more money by following regulations, there will be no change.

Ian Smith summed up the point well in his final remarks:

“These are companies that exist for profit and currently that profit is generated by millions and millions of casual players making microtransactions every day, that’s where the money is.  The company will protect the source of their money and until a relationship with the esports industries using their game as a product is profitable to a meaningful extent you are not going to generate interest … it will always come back to money, there is no morality in this business

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Andrew Boggs

Andrew is a Northern Ireland based journalist with a passion for video games. His latest hobby is watching people speedrun Super Mario 64 and realising how bad he is at platformers.

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