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August 23, 2019

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Key question at conference: Can bettors trust that e-sports aren’t fixed?


Courtesy of Ourgame/World Poker Tour

Ourgame’s e-sports arena in Beijing is a 14,000-square-foot complex featuring hundreds of gaming stations, a 200-seat arena, and a broadcast studio.

The challenges of getting e-sports into sports books and onto casino floors were the focus of two sessions of a conference on the popular form of competition Tuesday in Las Vegas, with discussion focusing on how gaming operators could ensure bettors that the outcomes weren't being manipulated.

“My question is how will these sports be regulated and how do we ensure their integrity,” said Chuck Esposito, director of Sunset Station Race and Sports Book. “I don’t know if I can watch an e-sports event now and know if something is right or wrong.”

Esposito put the question to two e-sports industry experts during a panel session at the conference, being held through today at SLS Las Vegas. Both said they weren’t especially worried about fixing or other integrity issues.

“With the regulated space we’re in, we’re quite confident with the games we offer ... and that the integrity issues aren’t that really big,” said Moritz Maurer, whose company Genius Sports provides e-sports betting information products to European sports books, sports media and leagues.

“We also have visibility of the liquidity of the markets. Integrity in e-sports is a combined effort between the bookmakers, publishers and the players. I think a big part is education. I feel that many of players sometimes don’t understand the implications of their actions on a betting market.”

Carson Knuth, a co-founder of Leet, a Las Vegas e-sports solutions company, said the very nature of e-sports could help combat integrity issues.

“It’s easier to track out-of-normal behavior because everything takes place on computer,” Knuth said. “So I think that can address integrity of the game.”

Esposito also wondered — given the importance of tracking players and games to traditional sports bettors — how e-sports bettors would get the information they needed to enjoy the games.

“I think it will be sort of a scaling type of thing,” Knuth said. “When you first offer it, the people betting are going to be people who are very interested in the games and have an acute understanding of them.

“Later, (the players) will be there maybe because they like sports betting and e-sports happens to be there. So information becomes pretty critical. One thing may be to provide basic fact sheets that explain the games and what they are all about.”

Maurer explained that communicating information about e-sports tournaments to bettors was one of the main challenges his company was working to address.

“One (issue) is breaking down the complexity, making it more accessible” Maurer said. “But also, we want to have a product in casinos that mirrors the complexity of games and is really engaging.

“Another thing is understanding the player base. It’s not one community or one set of games, but a collection of different games on different platforms. We want to create an experience that someone who is not a gamer can understand, and one of the challenges is overcoming that barrier of education for the player about games that are very complex.”

In a later session, discussion turned from sports book betting on professional e-sports to getting the games to work for everyday gamblers on the casino floor.

The speakers were Blaine Graboyes, CEO of GameCo, which operates skill-based games in New Jersey casinos, and Darion Lowenstein, CMO of Gamblit Gaming, which displayed several skill-based games at this year’s Global Gaming Expo.

Both said the appetite of casino operators for e-sports and skill based games and the willingness of regulators to work with developers had gotten stronger in recent years.

But for the games to be successful, they said, resorts would have to abandon stereotypes about the people who play games and then give the games the space they needed on the casino floor to be successful.

“The biggest thing is dispelling the stereotypes about who gamers are” Graboyes said. “It’s easy to think gamers are kids living in their mom’s basement with a bag of Doritos and a Mountain Dew.

“That’s maybe who we were, but we grew up and we want to go to places that are cool. And there’s no cooler place than a casino. So one thing I want to talk about is breaking with all the past talk about millennials.”

Lowenstein said casino operators had been asking for a new product.

"But it’s very dangerous to just flop it on the floor … amidst the blue-hair smoking pit," he said. “We’re looking for areas where people who will play it will be — near bars, near the nightclub entrance. That’s where they’re coming into the casino already, anyway.”

Graboyes agreed.

“Casinos need to make an investment in supporting this new audience,” he said. “The consumer journey is so important, from the first time they are exposed to the game, you have to hold the consumer's hand because it’s so new.

“Floor placement is important for getting the existing audience. It’s important for operators to recognize it’s an investment and not a small investment but a big investment.”

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