Pinnacle Sports says virtual e-gambling is the company's fastest growing business
The ability to watch, play and bet online on virtual sports – including battle arena-oriented popular virtual offerings like League of Legends and Dota 2 – has resulted in fast growth for online sports betting companies that have embraced the vertical, reports NBC.
Improvements in sound effect, graphics and animation technology have made possible absorbing online competitions set in huge, meticulously rendered backdrops like stadiums holding thousands of virtual spectators, increasing player engagement…and gambling.
Phil Hudson of Pinnacle Sports told NBC: "E-sports is definitely our fastest area of growth. It's quite big in Asia and Eastern Europe, but e-sports is really a phenomenon across the world."
Whilst at present not nearly as popular as soccer or American football, e-sports have attracted more than 350,000 bets on Pinnacle's website this year, making it the company's eighth most popular sport.
Since 2011, when Pinnacle began accepting bets on e-sports, the volume of trades placed on video game matches has doubled every year, Hudson revealed. Consequently, the company has hired a team of eight e-sports traders responsible for setting lines and wagers.
Datbet and E-Sport Bets also take bets from all over the world — although most avoid the USA with its tough laws against sports betting in all but four states.
NBC reports that the stakes are relatively small in e-sports – the five-player team that won the 2014 "League of Legends" championship took home $1 million in prize money; considerably less than soccer superstar Ronaldo gets paid in a single game.
But even virtual sports attract corruption, the broadcaster notes. In March, "League of Legends" player Cheon "Promise" Min-Ki reportedly attempted suicide after being implicated in a match-fixing scandal, and in 2010, the BBC confirmed that complaints of match-fixing in "StarCraft II" had been reported to Seoul police.
Online gambling law expert I. Nelson Rose of the Whittier Law School, told NBC that corruption such as match fixing could slow the development of e-sports if it was not contained.
The vertical has spawned the Electronic Sports League (ESL) which runs competitions across the globe in "League of Legends," "StarCraft II," and "Counter-Strike".
Spokesperson Anna Rozwandowicz commented: "We do not allow betting on games of a league the betting player is taking part in, and betting against yourself or your own team leads inevitably to disqualification."
She said that the ESL is "…striving to make this a rule in all leagues not only run by us, but to make it an industry standard."
Nelson Rose said that monitoring and enforcement has largely been left to the leagues themselves, acting in the best interests of companies and players.
"It's almost 100 percent on the leagues," he said. "It's almost impossible for states, and even hard for the federal government, to enforce gambling laws outside of the United States."
The NBC reports that so popular has e-sports become that talented gamers are now privy to college scholarships, die-hard fans, and even U.S. visas that only athletes like basketball and hockey players had access to before.
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