Next year, the Intel World Open esports tournament will take place in Tokyo in the lead up the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in a bid (excuse the pun) to further strengthen links between the esports movement and the IOC.
While that’s great news for gamers, many gaming regulators are recognising the unique challenges that go with esports – particularly the rising popularity of betting on tournaments.
Marc Ellinger, partner at Ellinger & Associates, and gaming law expert, said, ‘Unlike traditional gaming and sports betting, esports presents the quandary of minors being a dominant part of the playing field.’
Minors aren’t just playing. The elite players are cashing in. Big. American teenager Kyle Giersdorf (16), won over $3 million (USD) in the Fortnite World Cup this year. In fact, esports has made many more children millionaires in recent years.
According to Marc, the majority of esports fans are also under 18.
So with all this attention, prizemoney and betting, what do we know about the potential gambling harms given the talent pool and audience?
University of Bristol (UK) has recently highlighted some of the risks posed by esports, in its paper titled The Biddable Youth report, released in August this year.
Headlining the report’s release was the statistic showing that in the UK 28% of people engaging with esports betting tweets were under 16.
In analysing over 880,000 betting-related tweets, researchers also found that 74% esports and 68% of traditional sports tweets don’t comply with UK gambling advertising regulations.
Another significant cause for concern was that esports betting ads regularly featured people under 25, which also breaches regulations.
A spokesperson for the Unversity of Bristol added, ‘Parents and teachers are likely to be completely unaware of gambling advertising on social media as, through the use of cryptocurrencies, children may be able to place bets without access to a bank account.’
Marc added, ‘Since such a large number of players and fans are minors, those advertisements are inherently going to be targeting minors (whether intentionally or inadvertently).
‘How regulators address this concern will deserve careful and thoughtful analysis by regulators and the industry.’
‘Integrity issues are also in play, as questions will arise on what the impact is of parents of minors acting in an illegal manner,’ said Marc.
‘Can the minor be sanctioned for their guardians bad deeds? These issues simply don’t arise in traditional regulatory environments.’