UK gambling regulator to take closer eye at eSports betting, digital currencies

uk-gambling-commission-esports-bettingUK gambling regulators intend to take a closer look at new gambling products such as eSports skin betting and the role of digital currencies like Bitcoin.

On Tuesday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) issued its annual report, in which CEO Sarah Harrison – who assumed the reins of power last year – laid out the UKGC’s upcoming priorities, including the warning that “a further area for continuing future focus will be on emerging products and digital currencies.”

While Harrison offered no details on the UKGC’s digital currencies concerns, she said eSports “has scope to present issues for regulation and player protection.” In addition to real money eSports betting markets, Harrison singled out “trading in-game items which blur the lines between gambling and social gaming.” Harrison said the UKGC would engage with stakeholders to minimize the risks these new products pose “particularly to children and young people.”

Skin betting has been plunged into disrepute in recent weeks following revelations that eSports stars had been publicly promoting betting sites without disclosing their ownership of the same sites. Other sites stand accused of rigging the outcome of sponsored players’ skin betting activity to give other players the illusion of higher win rates.

The ensuing fallout led Valve Corp, developer of the popular CounterStrike: Global Offensive title, to warn third-party sites not to access Valve’s Steam marketplace, which was followed by video streaming platform Twitch warning its users not to broadcast content that violated Valve’s directive. Valve is also facing class action lawsuits by parents who claim the company did little to prevent kids from engaging in skin betting.

In more positive eSports news, UK-licensed real-money eSports betting operator Unikrn has agreed to provide an eSports 18+ zone at the upcoming Resonate – Total Gaming festival, which gets underway on July 29 at Glasgow’s SECC.

Unikrn says its zone will feature a dedicated mezzanine bar, appearances by eSports professionals and a sign-up voucher for “some strictly 18+ fun.” Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood said he was “super happy” to have teamed with Resonate, which “shares the same passion for gaming and eSports as we do.” Given the recent spate of bad press, Sood took pains to stress that his outfit was “the most regulated eSportsbook in the world.”