Martin Lycka: At the crossroads of esports and betting 

Martin Lycka, Entain’s Senior Vice President of US Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling, delves into the world of esports as the sector becomes increasingly popular for sportsbooks across the world.

Just west of Mar Sara, 25 March 2506, 12:45 Zulu Time: a deserted platoon of Terran Marines, supported by a few remaining Vultures running on fumes and a Siege Tank that lost its mobility, has been defending its sector against swarms of Zerglings, Ultralisks and airborne Mutalisks. Desperation is creeping in. 

To make things worse, there are rumours that the Protoss Commanders, once allies in fighting off the Zerg swarms, have shut down their warp gates and flew off to their home parts of the galaxy … 

Largely unbeknownst to me, I was a gamer once. With no internet connection at home, I used to go to my Dad’s chemistry lab that was filled with computers that allowed me to spar with other young kids around the StarCraft Galaxy in a noble quest to improve my RTS tactical skills, and frankly my fast clicking ability. 

Admittedly I wasn’t too good and rather than conquering the world of video gaming, I set off to becoming a lawyer instead (a quest far less noble many would surely argue). 

Yet, video gaming was fun, and it remains fun till the present day. It has however gone through a momentous transformation since my StarCraft-filled days in the late nineties. The lounges of friends and gaming arcades have been replaced by glitzy, glamorous gaming arenas for thousands of people.

Once an activity for a lucky few to play – and a few more to watch – it has evolved in a behemoth that has spawned its own TV channels and has even attracted a keen interest from sports franchise owners. Millions of fans around the world tune in to watch epic DOTA 2 and League of Legends battles or thrilling Madden NFL contests; and perhaps, just perhaps, one day mainstream stations  will create digital versions of Gary Lineker and Terry Bradshaw to talk us through esports’ “matches of the day.

And then, just like with any sport, one can bet on it. The COVID pandemic has allowed these markets to rise to further prominence. With all due respect. competition from Belarussian football and Angolan table tennis has not been as stiff as the likes of the Premier League or the Euros would have exercised. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, interest in esports and betting on them has not diminished; quite the contrary. The younger generations may somewhat prefer their digital on-screen heroes to the real-life ones. 

It is also fair to say that regulation is slowly, but surely, catching up. A number of European countries now allow betting on esports. Looking to the US, most states that have regulated throughout 2020 and 2021 have classified esports as a standard part of their markets portfolio. Both Nevada and New Jersey are even looking into regulation of esports tournaments themselves, independent of regulating betting on esports. 

The critical component of any such regulation is player and consumer protection, ranging from rules around age verification and tournament registrations through to responsible gaming and gaming integrity practice. Organisations such as ESIC and CSPPA, amongst others, have led this charge and are by no means resting on their laurels as the world of esports enters yet another stage of expansion on the world stage. So welcome, your units are ready to take your orders; game with them responsibly. 

The statements made in relation to this article, do not necessarily reflect the opinions held by Entain Plc.

Catch up with Episode One of Martyn Lycka’s Safe Bet Show:

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