William Hill To Launch First eSports Service in US

william hillUK bookmaker and online betting giant William Hill made history this past weekend when it started accepting eSports bets at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The sportsbook is operated by the U.S. division of William Hill and it is the first time that wagering on eSports has been offered in the state of Nevada and in the United States.

The bets were taken for the IEM Oakland eSports event held last weekend at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, featuring the highly popular video game League of Legends. The landmark launch happened after William Hill and partner Downtown Grand Las Vegas received approval from the Governor’s Gaming Policy Committee to accept bets for the event.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said that the approval was a major step in placing Nevada on the path to become the top destination for esports wagering, adding that the fledgling eSports industry in the state would continue to look to include the latest in technology and innovations in the industry.

Amidst the rising popularity of eSports, betting on such games or tournaments has been seen as a natural extension of sports betting. Under current gaming laws, Nevada allows betting on athletic competitions. The chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board believes that eSports betting can be put in the same category as athletic sports and hence only minor regulatory adjustments were required to legalize eSports wagering.

Seth Schorr, Chief Executive Officer of Fifth Street Gaming and Chairman of the Downtown Grand Casino said that the approval was an excellent example of the industry working with the government to achieve a result that will have a positive impact Nevada’s gaming revenue. Schorr stated that he was proud that Downtown Grand Casino would be the first facility to offer legal eSports wagering in the U.S.

Downtown Grand had opened a dedicated lounge for eSports earlier this year and has been holding weekly competitions for games like Street Fighter, Madden, and Mortal Combat. William Hill said that the launch was a measure of the company’s commitment to provide gaming customers with latest innovations.

In a statement Joe Asher William Hill U.S. Chief Executive Officer said

We are excited to partner with Seth Schorr and the Downtown Grand to become the first sports book in America to offer legal wagering on eSports. A lot of work has gone into bringing eSports to the Nevada betting market and we thank the Governor and his Gaming Policy Committee, the Gaming Control Board and Seth for all of their efforts to keep Nevada at the forefront of the gaming industry

Forbes Draws Comparisons Between The Poker And eSports Industries

ForbesThe fast growth of eSports industry across the world is expected to create strong competition for the global poker market and its monies.

Writing for Forbes, Darren Heitner a lawyer and leading expert on sports and entertainment law has highlighted that the expansion of eSports was a real phenomenon, occurring across the world.

Canadian lottery operator Loto-Quebec has launched the first legal gaming platform for eSports, heralding a new phase in its growth.

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Darren Heitner has cited the results of a recent in-depth analysis that evaluated the monies involved, key players and the scope of the two games and found that poker for the time being has an advantage over the eSports market. The primary reason for this is due to the enormous prize pools involved in poker tournaments that eSports currently doesn’t have.

According to the report, the eSports industry is likely to go up by 43 percent in 2016 and be a $463 million industry. On the other hand as a result of online poker’s worldwide popularity its value is likely to reach $40 billion in 2016.

The popularity of eSports can be measured by the rapid increase in the viewership of live eSports events. Almost 40 percent of China’s smartphone owners which numbers around 600 million, have said that they have watched an eSports event. But TV viewership for eSports is still far behind the poker industry as the poker market has a number of established poker programs and live tournaments such as the World Series of Poker (WSOP) which draw a massive fan following all over the world.

Heitner also noted that while eSports has its celebrities such as Peter Dager, they are yet to crossover to the mainstream and reach the high levels of fame and popularity that poker stars such as Doyle Brunson enjoy. He however said that this was largely due to the relative longevity of poker and its history of broadcasts on TV.

In Heitner’s opinion, the ease of access via the internet along with the availability of platforms like Twitch has the potential to bring eSports to the forefront. Twitch in fact brings together fans allowing them to even converse with each other during matches.

The eSports industry continues to grow in population due to a number of options such as the ability to wager on the outcomes of eSports games. Heitner estimates that given these advantages the game will grow fast and witness similar success to that of the poker industry. He believes that it is only a matter of time before the eSports industry hits the coveted $1 billion mark.

UK Government Backs An Olympic style eSports Tournament

eGameseSports have witnessed a significant growth in popularity during the last few years.

The number of players playing and competing professionally, the number of viewers watching these games and the overall prize pools awarded have all increased substantially.

A number of countries have taken note of this growth and have started to actively work in promoting this nascent sport. The governments in countries like South Korea, the United Kingdom and Sweden have taken efforts to encourage eSports as they believe the global market for the industry has enormous potential and they would like to establish themselves as leaders in the industry.

Recently the British Government announced a special eSports event will be held and will be similar to the Olympics. This tournament is called eGames and is being touted as the Video games Olympics. A new International eGames Committee (IEGC) has been setup which will run the tournament and the tournament will be backed by the UK government. The International Olympic Committee will help in organizing the event.

The IEGC is a not for profit agency and has been setup to positively shape the future of competitive gaming. The IEGC will setup an International Advisory Board which will assist the IEGC in running the eGames. The International Advisory Board will focus on instilling good governance, responsible gaming and to make the tournament more inclusive and diverse.

The IEGC will also setup an Advisory Board in each country, which will oversee the respective country’s eGames Association and eSports Team. The advisory board members will consist of a mix of individuals coming from eSports, Sports and media industries.

The event will be a biannual event and will played on those years when the Summer and Winter Olympics are held. The eGames will be held in the same country that is hosting the Olympics. This event will start with eSports tournaments. For example, the immensely popular Dota 2 International tournament is being held from 8 to 13 August in Seattle and the Rio games are being held from 5 to 21 August. Therefore some of the organizers believe that these eGames should be held during a time frame where there is no clash of dates. This will be necessary to ensure a good and successful first ever eGames event.

Another concern is on the quality of the teams selected to represent their countries. In general, the top eSports teams around the world comprise of players from different countries. The eGames format will require these teams to disband and then form new teams made up of the same nationalities and will definitely reduce the quality of the teams and ultimately also reduce the quality of the competition.

While concerns remain, the majority in the eSports community welcome the concept of an eSports Olympics and have encouraged the initiative taken by the U.K government. In the past also there have been efforts made to get more recognition for eSports as an Olympics sports. In January 2015 the Korean eSport Association (KeSPA) was able to get an affiliation with the Korean Olympic Committee. This recognition was the first step towards receiving an endorsement from the International Olympics Committee which determines inclusion and exclusion of sports into the Olympics.

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Another effort has been made in the form of the World Cyber Games (WCG), an international eSports event, which is held in line of the Olympics. Nations participate and send teams which compete for national pride. In this tournament the winners receive gold, silver and bronze medals. Similar to the Olympics, the tournament begins with an opening ceremony. But unlike the eGames, the WCG had companies like Samsung as sponsors which invested enough money to ensure that players apart from winning medals, walk away with financial prizes as well.

The U.K continues to push and promote the eSports industry and tournaments like the eGames. The UK is expected to benefit immensely from this decision as it already has a large eGaming population and the Olympic style eGames event will help to increase the size of its market significantly.