Can You Trust eSports Betting? The Knowledge Ep4
When we look at sports betting markets, we trust that their integrity has not been compromised. We also imagine that we’d be able to tell if they have. But what happens when it’s computer games you’re betting on?
Brett Abarbanel is the director of research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, International Gaming Institute. She is also assistant professor at the William Harrah Hospitality College at UNLV, and an affiliate researcher with the University of Sydney Gambling Treatment and Research Centre, which is part of their school of psychology.
Generally, Brett Abarbanel is someone you want to hang out with. She’s a former poker player, who grew up by one of the world’s most famous racecourses, and studied mathematics until it took her to Las Vegas. Oh, and she’s also into eSports.
>> Listen to the full Knowledge Episode 4 Podcast here
“So my general purview is gambling research,” she explained, “as somewhat broad as that sounds, and I cover a lot of different subjects under that, which we do mainly through IGI - that's my main home.
“My main area of expertise is in video games, gambling in esports, with a particular focus on competition and gambling associated with that, but we also do research in many other areas.”
You can learn a lot more about Brett Abarbanel, and also her most current research project later by listening to the Knowledge podcast, but we’re going to start here by delving into her knowledge of eSports.
How Do You Cheat On eSports Games?
If you don’t know what eSports are Google ‘International Dota 2 Championships’ right now, and be prepared to be shocked.
That is the most valuable prize in eSports, with $34million up for grabs, and more than $15million promised to the winners. To put that into perspective, that’s seven times more than the Men’s Wimbledon winner, or the winner of the US Masters in golf.
It is serious business now, so much so that betting on eSports has become a multi-billion dollar market. But, with the emergence of betting on eSports, has come concerns over match-fixing and doping. Abarbanel has been looking into this and explains what it actually entails.
"How the cheating is done in eSports is quite different from how cheating is done in traditional sports, because everything is done online." she said.
"It's done in a game, and a game that's based on a digital platform as opposed to real life, or physical platform.
"If you are able to get into a game, you could add in a few extra lines of codes or some kind of add-on into that, to allow, let's say your character who has a hammer, to swing that hammer five times as hard as it could normally."
She added: "These types of software hacks are very difficult to implement, but it is an example of how something like that might work."
The reason big software hacks like that are difficult to achieve is because major competitions exist on LANs - local area networks - that can be highly protected and easily policed. But what about smaller competitions?
What Are eSports Doing About Cheats?
In 2016, the eSports industry founded the eSports Integrity Commission to help combat emerging threats of betting fraud. It has evolved to become the guardian of integrity in eSports, developing a set of principles it is asking all stakeholders to adopt.
Though bookmakers are not considered stakeholders, ESIC does offer them special - non-voting - membership as a Betting Operator Anti-Corruption Supporter, conscious of the information they have already provided in the fight to stamp out eSports cheats.
General regulation of eSports is also stepping up a notch, with the European eSports Federation forming in April this year, to bring together governing bodies from the UK, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey, and Ukraine.
"I think that that is a really good format," she said. "It allows people to build, based on their knowledge of the games. They already have those specific expertise that might not exist if you tried to push eSports into an existing sports federation, where you're probably going to be met with push back from folk who don't think it fits - or even have people in charge who don't know the games."
She added: "It's not necessarily malicious, it may just be ignorance about how some of these games work, which means then that writing rules for organisations around them might not be based on enough knowledge and expertise."
Creating national and then continental federations for eSports is a significant step towards convincing leading sports agencies that eSports should be included at competitions alongside traditional sports, and it has already been considered for addition to the Olympic Games, perhaps from Paris 2024.
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Did you miss Ep3 Calling The Melbourne Cup: Featuring Cup Commentator Matt Hill? Listen here, and look out for Ep5 as we meet JJ Woods, The Casino Maker.
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