Ian Smith, Integrity Commissioner at the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) and a lawyer with over twenty years’ experience in traditional sports, has provided an insight into the future of esports betting, its main challenges, as well as corruption in esports. More esports news are available here.
Will esports betting continue growing through deals between professional esports teams and betting operators who become their sponsors?
Betting on esports is definitely going to continue growing, but I think betting operators sponsoring teams or tournaments is only part of the reason. Maybe it brings new customers, but the other key KPI for an operator is getting existing customers to spend more money and this is done with respect to offering more and better markets in esports and this is driven by better data. All these factors are coming together, enhanced by the current pandemic.
Does esports betting face the same pressure from regulatory bodies as traditional sports?
Esports faces greater pressures because so few regulators understand what esports is, so there is a lot of caution and misunderstanding. In many jurisdictions, esports sits in a separate category to traditional sports betting or is prohibited, so there’s definitely a lot of education needed to bring legislators and regulators up to speed.
What countries have the highest potential and supportive environment for the development of the esports sector?
The USA is the richest environment with the best infrastructure, but the greatest potential has to be in China just because of the numbers of players and fans. If the esports industry can work out how to monetise that community, it will fly – if betting was legalized, the growth would be astronomical.
The problem of esports betting fraud is a pressing issue for this industry. What are the ways to solve it?
The simplest way is for the publishers, tournament organisers and betting operators to join ESIC and help us establish good regulations and standards and a better global suspicious betting alert network. The only other way is to engage with an official data provider and build an integrity algorithm into the feed to alert the data source to anything strange.
Do you agree with the statement that corruption in esports restrains it from development?
Absolutely. The industry needs to create and enforce high standards and radically improve the education of participants. Anything that detracts from pure sporting competition undermines progress because it undermines peoples’ faith in the product.