On January 24th, 2022 the Esports Entertainment Group became the first official Esports betting operator in New Jersey. The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement provided the company approval to approval to take bets on competitive video games.
Previously, New Jersey regulators reserved betting approval for events or tournaments based on individual and independent applications. With the latest permission, the Esports Entertainment Group is able to take bets for a continuous schedule of games.
The Esports Entertainment Group is affiliated with Bally’s Atlantic City’s casino license, but will only be taking bets associated with Esports. The company will be launching its VIE.gg betting platform on the 29th of January, following a soft play period.
Customers on the VIE.gg betting platform can bet on gamers playing Call of Duty, League of Legends, and a whole host of other games.
Considering how new Esports betting is, let’s take a look at the current landscape:
Where is Esports Betting Legal in the US?
The laws surrounding Esports betting in the US are murky at best. This is for two reasons. First, regulations for regular sports betting is still evolving. In fact, it continues to be banned in many states and regions.
Second, there is no federal regulation regarding sports or Esports betting. Instead, states have been left to their own devices to determine whether Esports betting should be legalized or not.
However, individual states haven't exactly been clear on their stance on Esports betting either. Some have flagrantly declared it either legal or illegal. Other states, on the other hand, haven't released such statements, creating blurred lines and loopholes. Then, there are others that grant approval on a case-by-case basis.
According to BettingUSA.com, here are a list of states where Esports betting is legal :
- New Jersey
Betting is outright banned in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Iowa.
In the rest of the states, the laws surrounding Esports betting can be labelled as unclear. There aren't any laws criminalizing activity, but at the same time it hasn’t been legalized and there aren't betting sites to cater to any needs in the regions either.
With time, though, it is possible that these regions will become more open to the possibility. The recent approval for the Esports Entertainment Group may provide the push that regulatory agencies were looking for.
Here is an important topic to discuss: why is there so much hesitation around the legalization of Esports betting?
Well, this has to do with the gamers participating and the audience that Esports attracts.
In both instances, Esports is largely followed by a younger crowd – around 32 percent is between the age of 16 and 24. There is a good possibility that even younger individuals watch online gaming sports. Therefore, there is too much of a risk of underage bettors taking part in placing bets.
To add to this, virtually all of the gamers in Esports are incredibly young, many are just teenagers. Most states frown upon betting on any type of sports or activity that involves underage individuals. In most cases, this type of betting is banned outright.
There also continues to be a fear of match fixing if betting on Esports is encouraged. This fear isn't completely irrational – there have been instances of this happening in countries where Esports betting has been legalized.
The Age Requirement
The Age Requirement to place bets for Esports is the same as with other forms of betting. You either have to be 21 years or older.
This is something that bettors who have previously used offshore platforms and accounts should be especially mindful of. Many international platforms allow individuals over the age of 18 to place bets.
Can Independent Operators Hold Their Own?
An interesting point to consider is what kind of future platforms such as VIE.gg will have. Currently, they have no competition as they are the first operator to receive such approval. Thus, success straight out of the gate is guaranteed.
However, will they enjoy the same kind of lead when major players such as BetMGM and Draft Kings are afforded the same level of access to bettors?
Well, to a certain degree, this does depend on how generous the Division of Gaming Enforcement will be with future applications. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that the Esports Entertainment Group was granted approval was because it was a smaller platform, with a smaller reach.
As such, it is easier to monitor the operation as a whole, reducing the risk of betting on underage gamers and match fixing. There is less guarantee with larger bookmaking companies where the size of the audience can make it difficult to regulate.
As mentioned, one of the reasons that lawmakers have been hesitant to legalize Esports betting on a widespread basis is due to the audience that it caters to. On average, those who follow Esports are younger individuals, many below the age of 21 and 18.
Therefore, by making Esports betting possible, there is a greater chance of younger individuals trying to place bets. This can open up the industry to claims of fraud and more.
This could potentially mean that VIE.gg remains one of the primary platforms for some time to come. Or, the gaming enforcement commission could limit approval to smaller platforms that are easier to monitor and regulate.
If this is true, then this is evidence that smaller operators could rule the landscape for some time to go. It goes without saying that larger platforms will manage to wrestle their way into the industry, monopolizing the companies that have already been established.
There is certainly a lot to speculate about, but the primary focus is on the fact that an independent operator was granted general approval for Esports betting. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for gamers and spectators alike. As Esports continues to grow, there is a good chance that betting may become quite normalized throughout the States. It is almost certainly just a matter of time.