As Esports continues to rise in popularity, spurred on by the recent lockdowns, many operators have hopes of taking their sportsbook portfolios to the next level with this product. Despite its increasing appeal, esports as a product still faces challenges with regard to integrity and customer engagement.
We spoke with Pavol Krasnovsky, CEO of leading esports provider, RTSmunity, to hear his thoughts on this burgeoning sector of the iGaming market and how best to manage the also growing issue of integrity that comes along with it.
We’ve seen a huge rise in esports activity over the last few months, but there’s still quite a way to go before esports gets to the level of the more mainstream sports like Football. How long do you think it’s going to take before we reach these levels and what’s it going to take for us to get there?
“The only thing we need is time!
If you look at the esports audience in general, you see growth by approximately 50mil of new fans every year. But more importantly, the young generation between 18-25 years old is already spending more time watching video games and esports content than traditional sports.
So naturally, with every year further down the road, you will see an increase in this number. We are watching the creation of a new phenomenon in real-time, and it’s really exciting!”
Millennial esports viewers are used to streaming on Twitch and Youtube, how can their “normal” experience be transferred over to an operator? What types of ways can an operator keep engagement high?
“That’s a great question, and I will reply with data from the market itself.
The top four things esports fans are missing right now when watching esports are – betting focused content, multiple camera angles, statistics and social elements.
Camera angles are the responsibility of broadcasters, but all the other parts can be done by operators!
So operators have the unique chance to attract new customers by giving them what they want.
It seems obvious, but so often do we see operators trying to fit esports fans into the same category as football fans, and it just doesn’t work.”
Leading on from our interview with Ian Smith, Commissioner at ESIC, in which we spoke about the prevalence of match-fixing in the lower leagues. How does RTSMunity manage the risk of lower league esports to ensure integrity?
“There are three pillars of our approach to integrity.
First one is awareness. Our traders constantly monitor situations in esports, and we keep a blacklist of teams and tournaments we refuse to cover.
The second one is prevention. We don’t cover any tournaments with a prize pool below $10k.
The third one, and probably the most important one, is market insight. As we operate as liquidity providers on Betfair exchange, we have unique insight into any movement on the betting market, as well as skin in the game.
Once we see any suspicious bets, we can suspend markets for our clients, and prevent them from losing money. And the same goes for us, our profit relies on our ability to catch any irregularities.”
With betting operators blurring the lines with tournament organisers, how far will this go in increasing integrity in the industry?
“From a global perspective, the esports industry is still very young. That means that it is still looking at the optimal way of how to operate.
In regard to your question, if it is done correctly, the connection between operators and tournaments can really help. Every betting operator wants to have a fair competition, so it is in their best interest to be very diligent.
Of course, there needs to be a clear split of activities between those actors. But in general, we are heading to the same scheme as in traditional sports, where betting operators sponsor leagues, teams, or players.”
Editor’s Note: Pavol believes esports is a phenomenon happening before our very eyes, and with the numbers to back it up, it’s hard not to agree that the future for esports is very promising.
It’s also clear that there’s still much work to do in order to create a fully comprehensive esports betting experience, this is what will take the sector to the next level and be really be able to compete with the mainstream, traditional sports betting products.
According to Pavol, as soon as operators stop treating esports fans the same way they do football fans, they will see the pivotal change they’re looking for.
A trend hopefully we’ll see more of in the future.