The rapidly growing E-Sports industry is getting scrutiny from its Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) commissioner. He’s concerned battle royale games such as Fortnite could be vulnerable to skill-based bet cheating, as the site Unikrn announced allowing skill-based betting, including allowing users to wager on themselves, is coming to the United States.
E-Sports Commissioner Ian Smith: Industry Not Ready to Govern Betting
ESIC Commissioner Ian Smith acknowledges betting will catch on, but perhaps the nascent industry isn’t savvy enough yet to handle such a market. Sites such as Unikrn would essentially have full control over skill ratings and matching user-gamblers against one another. That’s a lot of power. One plausible scenario might be a Fortnite player, for example, using an account and then handing off gaming duties to a more capable mate. “Or, what would prevent talented players from hustling the system by nuking their game profile before placing a series of big bets?” the Associated Press asked rhetorically.
“I’m not certain that the tools exist yet that would properly identify the person playing the game is the same person who normally ran that account,” Smith noted. E-Sports gambling site Unikrn is set to bring legal, skill-based wagering to the United States, allowing fans and even players to bet on themselves. Unikrn links game users to their platform, generating odds based on the user’s game profile. While it might at first seem a tad outrageous, the company is actually a betting partner with the ESIC.
Connekt is the platform the company claims can prevent fraud. “We have thousands of players playing thousands of matches which we use to understand the competitive ecosystem of a game and the players themselves,” CEO of Unikrn, Rahul Sood, told the Associated Press. “We pride ourselves on giving users the best experience, which we can only do with a personal knowledge of how they enjoy gaming. That same personal knowledge is key to ensuring integrity in all wagering elements of our platform.”
E-Sports Betting is Already a $1 Billion Industry
Its chief product officer argued, “Just like we’re able to flag suspicious activity from an esportsbook customer, we get a deep understanding of our players by the data in their games. Basic elements, such as checking for suspicious IP address changes, and more complex game information are together used to build player models and create gamer fingerprints,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.
“I think if they do that right, it’ll be enormously profitable,” Smith said of the idea. “Because there’s so many people playing this game, and having something at stake beyond your pride is always attractive, whatever game you look at. From guys playing snooker or golf or any game, putting a bit of money on a handshake generally adds something to that situation, and I see no reason why that wouldn’t be true of Fortnite.”
Smith reckons wagering on the sport is already a one billion dollar industry, though illegal. Games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground are incredibly popular. “The risk that cheating may go unnoticed is higher in battle royales than in other competitive video games,” the Associated Press explains. “Battle royales are last-man-standing clashes between many competitors — Fortnite and PUBG host up to 100 players per game — and have more volatile outcomes than multiplayer games like League of Legends or Overwatch.”
Smith insisted, “The battle royale games pose particular problems because they don’t actually lend themselves to traditional esports formats, and therefore to traditional betting formats. The betting on tournament play is evolving slowly and nobody’s making much money out of it. Everybody’s interested, obviously … but offering interesting and good markets is very, very difficult at this stage.”
Volatility is another problem for odds-makers when considering games like Fortnite. Sports books, however, have managed for years to make odds, especially in Asia and Europe, for games such as Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and DOTA. “Unikrn hopes to widen the breadth of wagers available, capitalizing on the fact that most esports lend themselves well to prop bets and in-game wagering,” the Associated Press notes.
Still, Smith is incredulous. “If people feel they’re getting ripped off by boosters and smurfers and guys who play well above their rating in terms of a match-making system, they’re simply going to stop doing it, aren’t they?” he argued. “There is a risk to the operator in that sense. What he really needs to do is provide a credible platform so that when you go on and play, you feel like you’re playing against somebody of roughly your level and therefore there’s a decent contest of skill involved.”
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