Esports betting has taken centre stage as a viable alternative for bookmakers during the COVID-19 crisis. However, with this relatively new sector garnering a lot of attention, questions are being raised as to how stable it is compared with traditional sports betting.
It is vital that esports betting keeps its integrity during this period as a mistake could derail the sector’s future potential in the market. In order to remain fair and void of match-fixing, the correct data must be collated and distributed to its operators.
SBC spoke to RTSmunity CEO Pavol Krasnovský about how difficult it is to collate esports data and if there are any potential risks involved with match-fixing in the sector.
Krasnovský emphasised: “What we have been witnessing in esports in general is a huge increase in professionalism and structure. You can compare the organisation of top esports events with football or ice hockey, and it will be on the same level.
“Secondly, with the amount of data we have to process, for both in-game data points and incoming intensity of bets, we are able to detect inconsistencies or suspicious activities. Anyway, attempted match-fixing can happen at the same level as in traditional sports. It is always caused by a lack of integrity and sense of fair play.”
He continued: “As for match-fixing prevention as such, this is exactly the place where betting operators can help with securing the fair environment, if they work together with tournament organisers. You also have organisations like Esports Integrity Commission, which can provide the “umbrella” under which all parties can work on integrity.
“When bookmakers see a high intensity of incoming bets on implied odds on underdog in a low prize pool tournament, that’s a red flag, and with proper coordination, all measures can be taken to really ensure fair play.”
Whilst match fixing may not be an underlying issue, a lack of esports knowledge by the bookmaker who has created the odds certainly is. A recent example was NBA’s recent all-pro competition in which results were leaked as games were not played live. Unfortunately for some operators the firms were unaware of this knowledge resulting in the bookmakers losing money on certain games.
Another potential issue with esports betting is the cost of supplying data to providers. The demand for esports betting providers has significantly increased due to COVID-19 and so those processes will need to be intensified in order to secure correct data on a variety of gaming titles and competitions.
Krasnovský added: “Generally, all data sources we work with are crucial not only because of the core of our business, but also in order to sustain a fair environment for esports betting. The difficult thing in the current state of esports is to obtain a structured approach to data access. Each title, and sometimes even each tournament, has a separate approach to how they provide data streams. So the data is available, but the tricky thing is to get it in the right form and time.
“Providing odds in esports is several times more expensive than in traditional sports. Let’s say, in tennis, when you integrate data it is sufficient to integrate one API. In esports though, you need to integrate 30+ different APIs to obtain reasonable coverage. For example, one Dota 2 match has more data points than all ATP matches of a whole year.
“Developing in-play models is, from a mathematical-modeling perspective, very complex, since you work with 100+ in-play points every second. Hence, you need to have a very advanced low-latency infrastructure to quickly process in-play odds. In RTSmunity, it takes less than 50ms to process the data and provide updated odds to a customer.”
The intricacies of esports data, especially for betting, is also made harder by the amount of specific odds that are being introduced in games such as kills per minute, gold per minute, KDA ratio in shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty all the way to cs score (creep score) in League of Legends.
All of these markets require accurate data to maintain the games’ fair nature. For esports specific data providers, such as RTSmunity, to be successful then there has to be a demand by operators to enter this sector, which seems like the case according to the firm’s CEO.
“We are exclusively dedicated to esports betting, so the competitive gaming scene is our bread and butter,” said Krasnovský.
“The rise of esports we have seen over the past 10 years is confirming what we have always thought – that esports are here to stay for a long time. And the important thing for the gaming industry is the upcoming generation of customers, who are a bit different from your typical football-watching fan.
“In the US, the younger fans below the age of 35, who make up a 77% of the esports audience, watch esports more often than baseball or ice hockey. The number of viewers is rising by 15% each year.
“There are now ‘esports only’vbetting operators. And looking at the other side, sponsorships from betting operators help to monetise big esport events. So the importance works both ways, let’s keep that in mind.”
For esports betting to be a viable option for bookmakers, it is imperative that there is correct significant data and knowledge about the industry in order to reap its benefits.
According to the RTSmunity CEO, if bookmakers fully invest and continue to invest in esports after the COVID-19 outbreak, then it opens the betting sector to a whole new audience and demographic.
Krasnovský concluded: “So far, many bookmakers see esports just as another segment of betting, but there are some crucial differences which need to be reflected. Even with bookmakers operating only on esports, they still seem to apply the traditional approach, and we expect this to change. There needs to be more of a dynamic approach, most of the in-game betting events are directly relevant to the outcome of the game, so they are much more engaging than in classic sports.
“Today, there is a big gap of the asymmetry of information between bookmakers and punters, and even both esports betting dedicated companies or US based companies such as Fanduel and DraftKings have not come up on the market with a true game changer approach. Hence, there is a space for new betting platforms which will be able to offer truly game changing approaches for punters.”