Esports Gambling: An Inevitable Future
With a landmark case on sports betting currently before the US Supreme Court, more than 20 states are crafting legislation in the hopes that they will be able to permit sport betting in their jurisdiction. If the Supreme Court ruling provides states the option to legalize sports betting, almost every other state with follow suit. As a result, billions of dollars that are currently wagered in the US on the unregulated market will move onto regulated sites, and there’s an expected increase in betting that will occur from bettors who were uncomfortable betting illegally.
As sports betting volume increases throughout the US, so too will betting on esports. The growth of esports gambling is inevitable. This simple fact must frame the entire debate surrounding the role of wagering in the esports industry. The downsides associated with gambling—threats to competitive integrity, addiction, underage gambling, and more—are part of our ecosystem whether we like it or not. If we truly want to minimize these harms, it is far better to become part of the solution rather than to simply shun the wagering industry entirely.
Gambling can make esports even bigger and better. The esports industry needs the courage to think about this problem differently. It needs to integrate wagering into the fabric of the community, regulate wagering activities, promote competitive integrity, and work collaboratively to combat any negative consequences that may arise. For leagues and publishers, that means working with betting operators to create education programs and share information in order to track potential match fixing. For teams, expectations and rules surrounding betting should be clearly defined in contracts with players.
Legal gambling is coming to esports whether we want it to or not. It’s time to prepare all stakeholders in the community so that when it’s here, we’re ready.
HyperX Signs Joel Embiid As Newest Ambassador
Disclosure: Catalyst Sports represents De’Aaron Fox who is also a HyperX Brand Ambassador.
Yesterday, HyperX announced they have signed Joel Embiid as a brand ambassador joining De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings and Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics. These partnerships are in addition to team sponsorships they have with Jonas Jerebko’s (Utah Jazz) Detroit Renegades, the Dallas Mavericks, and the 76ers/Team Dignitas.
HyperX has recognized and capitalized on the continued convergence of esports, traditional sports, and video games. Over the last two years, HyperX has become one of the leading endemic gaming product companies to ingrain itself with the traditional sports video game scene. Adding Joel Embiid offers further diversification to their ambassador portfolio, as Embiid’s dynamic personality will complement Hayward’s PC gaming pedigree and Fox’s console gaming passion nicely.
While HyperX is well established in the PC gaming market as a headset/peripheral maker, there is a huge opportunity for HyperX to further substantiate themselves with traditional console gamers. New console game franchises from NBA 2K to Fortnite have become increasingly social with online competitions quickly becoming the core game experience (Battle Royale on Fortnite, MyPark on NBA 2K, etc). These experiences require quality headsets and a lot of the other current options offer subpar experiences for users.
HyperX hopes to establish headsets as critical components to the console gaming experience and these brand ambassadors, in addition to their team partnerships, give HyperX plenty of assets to activate against (ambassadors’ social media platforms, in-arena signage, in-arena activation, etc.) that will reach new and untapped audiences with different demographics from gaming. Collectively these 3 basketball players have over 3.8M Instagram followers and around 2M Twitter followers, helping HyperX target the younger NBA fan demographic as compared to the traditional TV audience.
Will Esports be Included in Future Olympic Games?
The Winter Olympic games kicked off last Thursday in PyeongChang, South Korea and in a three day tournament, days before the event started, ESL’s Intel Extreme Masters PyeongChang hosted a Starcraft II tournament. Canadian Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn was the ultimate champion — she was the only female competitor to qualify for the tournament and upset one of the world’s best players, Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin for the victory, netting her the $50,000 first place prize.
The tournament had no live audience, but was streamed on the digital Olympic Channel, Twitch, Facebook, Twitter, and two other international platforms. The final viewership figures have not yet been released, but the International Olympic Committee official executives toured the tournament and were impressed with the event. Intel’s Olympic sponsorship will continue through the 2024 Paris Games.
It’s exciting that competitive gaming is being recognized on such a global sporting stage as the Olympic games. That said, IEM had to put the event together hastily and had little time to put on a flawlessly produced event. In the event’s presentation, the players wore Intel-IOC logo shirts, competed with their national flags behind them, and played underneath the Olympic rings displayed on the competition stage instead of wearing their usual sponsor uniforms. The event was created under IOC supervision for Intel by ESL using a Blizzard game so nuanced challenges — such as who owns the media rights — proved to be a challenge. Moving forward longer lead time, more defined roles, and possibly increased exposure should elevate the competition.
One thing that the IOC needs in order to include esports as part of the official Olympic billing is to work with some sort of unified organization, or governing body. Currently, a global esports governing body does not exist and many factors need to be considered if it were to be created. Some of the difficulties that would need to be addressed surround the different perspectives of stakeholders in the existing esports landscape: different game publishers, tournament organizers, and professional teams that control competitive rights to their players have to align on competitive format, games, and scheduling.
Regardless of how you feel towards esports being an Olympic sport, it will be interesting to see what the next steps are and how the talks with the IOC continue to develop. Maybe one day soon we will be seeing gamers playing underneath the Olympic rings in an official competition at the Olympic games.