SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital: The state of play with esports betting integrity

Esports betting has been a hot topic since the global health pandemic first began earlier this year, with traditional bookmakers stepping into the sector for the first time to provide punters with alternatives to traditional markets.

At SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, a panel of experts took to the virtual stage to discuss the future of esports betting in Europe. However, for esports to reach a standard in which it is recognised more than just a ‘niche’ market, the question of integrity was raised with regards to match-fixing, cheating and overall regulation of events, particularly those which are run by the operators themselves.

Pavol Krasnovky of RTSmunity highlighted that it’s dangerous for operators to be running tournaments without the proper regulation in place – especially when it comes to mitigating the risk of integrity being broken.

Krasnovky explained: “Some betting companies have started to organise tournaments and I think that it’s a great idea for gaining new punters. But on the other side from the esports professional perspective, it definitely harmed the market. Because these tournaments are not regulated and I think once they are not regulated, there is a huge potential for cheating and integrity issues.

“One of the very important points when you are responsible for managing risk on esports, which is our responsibility, is to be sure that you don’t cover the match which has troubles with cheating. Why? Because you lose a lot of money in this case.”

On the contrary, Steven Salz, CEO & Co-Founder of esports betting site Rivalry, argued that there are regulators out there right now and that if operator-run competitions are done correctly, then the integrity of esports betting can remain strong.

“The way that we look at it, when we do it, at least that Rivalry is we only typically offer it to tier one teams,” added Salz. “We work with ESIC, the esports integrity coalition, to make sure that there’s oversight on the event that we’re offering. Then the last thing that we do for integrity is we’ll work with the data rights with one of the large sportsbook providers like Sportradar, Betgenius or whoever, who will only offer markets that need their integrity parameters.”

“We would never put up a small prize pool, you know not have tier one tier two teams, not have ESIC involved and just to see what happens, because I think that if you do something like that, there are a lot of issues potentially for match fixing. So there are regulatory bodies in esports and you have to do your part to work with them.”

Speaking from a media perspective, Dr Matthias Kirschenhofer, Chief Legal Officer, Sport1 Medien AG, emphasised the importance of maintaining integrity in esports as the industry continues to become more mainstream. 

Dr Kirschenhofer commented: “Integrity is so important if you want to have a believable spot offer and also if you are involved in the sport media landscape.  We acquire a lot of not so cheap sports rights and if our audience thinks that this is not believable they will not switch on sport one and not use our digital channels.

“I think also in view of esports, we need some standards, and we are free to define them but I think this would be the next step for our industry to come together with betting on eSports with the media industry to define these standards. Otherwise, the regulator will do it, and then it will be hard.”

The panel, which was moderated by Alexandra Kalchuk, Head Of Business Development, Betinvest also discussed the overall growth of the sector and how COVID-19 and the lack of live-sport led many traditional bettors to betting on competitive gaming.

Eirik Kristiansen, CEO, Pixelbet stated that he is confident that esports betting will retain a lot of its new customers, while also feeling that the older generations which used the sector as a substitute could also remain once traditional sport returns to normal.

“We saw a huge increase in betting on esports. I think this could be a phase as well where a lot of the older generations might have gotten some eyes on esports,” said Kristiansen.

“The market is growing so fast and over the past months, we have seen the demographic, the age gap, stretching a lot. We used to see basically only between 20 and 35 year olds betting on esports and now we have people all the way up to 85 placing bets on esports. If this is going to continue on the same trajectory as it did during the pandemic, it’s hard to say, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down on our side, at least. It’s really amazing to see.”

To conclude, Salz highlighted that the overwhelming benefit of esports betting is its younger demographic. By tapping into this new generation, operators can fully understand how to adapt models to drive the punter into other sectors such as casino and traditional sports.

He stated: “Our view is that esports is a great market access to less younger demographics and the next generations interest in betting. So I think what an esports endemic or an esports focused platform brings, like Pixelbet, is you can build on top of funnel, an onboarding experience, a retention experience, an overall user experience, and a customer support experience that is designed for a younger generation or the next generation. This is because you’re focusing on esports, but then you can up-sell them to sports, casino etc.”

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit – https://sbcevents.com/sbc-summit-barcelona-digital/registration/

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