Electronic sports and gambling
By Radu Oae
Mihai Cătălin Luca Law Office
Lately, gambling organizers have shown interest in the field of electronic sports, which is in a continuous upward trend, gathering more and more supporters. A study published by a market research company showed that in 2021 the e-sports industry will exceed 474 million viewers worldwide, of which 234 million watch at least one monthly event. The same study indicates that following this upward trend, it is estimated that the e-sports industry will exceed the threshold of 577 million viewers worldwide by the end of 2024.
Moreover, at the onset of the CoVID-19 pandemic and the lack of traditional sports competitions generated by it, people began to turn their attention to e-sports. This situation was clearly visible in the field of gambling, where we witnessed the inclusion in the betting offers of more and more competitions and events specific to e-sports.
That being said, regarding the legislation governing the field of gambling in Romania, we mention the fact that it does not provide different conditions for electronic sports, being applicable the same provisions as in the case of traditional sports. Consequently, any legal entity licensed and authorized to organize gambling activity in Romania has the right to include e-sports in the betting offers, provided that they are provided by the Rules of Betting of the organizer.
However, the inclusion of electronic sports events in the betting offer only creates the appearance of an easy-to-follow procedure, in reality gambling organizers encountering countless difficulties in connection with them. A specific problem of the electronic sports industry is the extreme dynamism that characterizes this field, fact generated by the constant attempt of developers to make changes to the games, with the ultimate goal of keeping interested players and investing in that video game. Over time, there have been many situations in which the developers of a video game have decided to radically change the way the game is played, even in the absence of any prior notification. Such changes were made shortly before a major tournament.
Therefore, from the point of view of gambling organizers, this feature of e-sports creates an extremely dangerous environment, as, in the absence of a thorough and continuous analysis of each event included in the betting offers, there is a possibility that a at this point, the odds offered by the gambling organizers do not correspond in any way to reality, as they have no other possibility than to accept the bets as they were offered and to bear the losses generated.
Another situation specific to e-sports that emphasizes the need for a thorough and continuous analysis, is the fact that, unlike traditional sports where, normally, there are official bodies whose object of activity is the representation of that sport and informing the population about everything. What is happening in that field, in the case of electronic sports, this role has been largely taken over by game developers who communicate directly through game interfaces or through social networks.
Any major change that can dramatically influence the way traditional sports are played is implemented over a long period of time, during which the public is informed of any changes and progress made. In the case of e-sports, such decisions are, in most cases, made in private and implemented overnight, without the public being informed about them.
Another potential factor generating difficulties is that, unlike traditional sports, which enjoy most of the comprehensive regulations in the betting regulations of gambling organizers, e-sports have been introduced in a very short time and are briefly regulated. Lack of regulation causes confusion among players and has the potential to generate misunderstandings, or even disputes between gambling organizers and players.
Of course, this problem could be easily solved by the gambling organizers making comprehensive betting regulations for each e-sport included in the betting offer. In practice, this is extremely rare, if not non-existent. A compromise solution would be for the betting regulations to include comprehensive provisions for each type of game that is part of the betting offer. In this way, even when e-sports are briefly regulated, there are still a number of rules that can guide the resolution of any misunderstandings between players and gambling organizers.
An example for the implementation of this solution would be the inclusion in the betting regulations of provisions that completely regulate the most popular genres of video games, such as “Shooter-e”, “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)”, “Sport” and “Fights.”