The rise of e-sports gaming. It is fair to say that Covid-19 has presented challenges for sports and for traditional sports betting gaming operators. As live sports events start to emerge again it presents a great opportunity to address the rise of e-sports, the opportunities it presents and the risk that goes with it. Particularly the effect the lockdown has had on the demographic that is most exposed: the underage audience.
Esports is still in its relative infancy, especially in the UK. But with popularity soaring, some of the larger licensed operators have already applied for an e-sportsbook license and have offerings from the likes of Bet365, LeoVegas, and Betway.
How is e-sports gaming controlled?
In the UK specifically, the existing controls for sports-betting have been applied by the UK Gambling Commission. Elsewhere global regulators are scrambling to understand and adapt to this new entrant. Additional notes have been made that it is still a ‘work in progress’ so additional conditions could be implemented. A report found that during the pandemic, e-sports gambling in the UK has risen by 2992%.
Why is e-sports gaming so popular?
Long term, as the demographics change e-sports was always going to rival the established sporting landscape but the lack of live sport and social interaction has seen a massive increase in registrations to e-sport sites like Steam. They reported their highest live user count of 23.7 million users, with an increase of 7.4 million from the previous record.
Games such as FIFA, NBA, and League of Legends already possess a large following with competitive tournaments frequently taking place.
The COVID effect: risks & rewards
Clearly there is a captive audience. The traditional sports betting community is locked down with access to their gaming accounts. The operators have this data, and whilst the regulators have fired a shot across their bows in reinforcing safer gambling messages and threatening fines, we all recognise that by focusing on esports they can minimise the impact of sports-betting losses.
Despite this, the video games industry is primarily geared towards a younger demographic. The University of Bristol found that 28% of those engaging with e-sports betting tweets were under 16 years old, this figure rising to 46% globally. The industry clearly needs to engage with customers better and provide more robust age verification tools. The younger age groups are historically more difficult to identify.
The emergence of new data sources and more effective technology is helping greatly and it is down to the operators to implement adequate process and reliable tools. By avoiding this, operators leave themselves open to accusations of ‘grooming’ children for when they are age appropriate. There is a responsibility to ensure they are not part of this environment.
Where do W2 come in?
We at W2 firmly believe the answer lies in reducing the complexity that has stifled advances in adoption and onboarding. These solutions come from the intelligence provided by the tech, not the individual components that make up a ‘check’. It is by combining facial technology and document verification with bureau-based data sources, and fraud screening tools that give the complete picture and ensures onboarded clients are screened effectively. Not only that, through the W2 monitoring system, existing databases are constantly screened and alerted if any changes are made.