The increasing popularity of betting on esports has been a topic of discussion at gambling conferences across the globe, yet operators still have a lot to learn about the sector. Until this happens, we as an industry won’t see a dramatic adoption and improvement in esports betting offerings, one of the reasons why Sports Betting Community (SBC) decided to launch Esportsinsider.com one year ago and an Esports Forum Series just last month.
The second installment of the Forum Series takes place at 18:00 on August 31st at the Fnatic Bunkr in Shoreditch, London. We spoke with Esports Insider Editor Sam Cooke to learn more about this event, what guests will learn, eat, drink and play on the night and also what charity it will support. Cooke also reveals the latest trends in esports and betting in addition to what we can expect to learn about esports at the upcoming Betting on Sports Conference in September.
Becky Liggero: Thank you for joining me today, Sam. Lets start with why you have chosen the location of the Fnatic Bunkr for this series? Can you describe it for us?
Sam Cooke: Fnatic are one of the world’s leading esports organisations, and so after they extended their Bunkr venue beyond the intended six week Christmas sales period, we couldn’t think of a more fitting venue to kick off our ESI Forum Series (#ESIForum).
The fact that it’s a cool space in the heart of Shoreditch, with a bar, esports trophies and merch adorning the walls, and ample options for those attending to play some games, didn’t hurt much either. We’re very friendly with the top notch Fnatic team, and the fact they have their global HQ in London is brilliant for the esports industry in the UK.
BL: It really does sound perfect. Can you provide us with a sneak peek of some of the highlights that will be revealed during the “esports & betting- what is the true potential” panel on the night?
SC: Whilst we’ve seen more and more bookmakers pop up and offer esports markets in the past six months, this doesn’t mean the offerings have by and large improved. Nor that bookmakers, in general, have fully ‘got esports’ quite yet.
Undoubtedly some bookmakers are doing a good job, and I’d point to the likes of Bet365 and Betway in terms of established bookies entering esports in a strong way.
Our panel will give their views on how to offer markets, how to communicate with the different sets of fans in this space and so on. Moreover the inherent challenges surrounding data will also be dissected, and the panel will touch on the themes of integrity issues, affiliates and more. We’re delighted with the level of knowledge that’ll be on our panel, and we’ve no doubt it’ll prove a captivating and educational evening for those that come by.
My main suggestion though; come by the Bunkr on the evening of August 31st and find out for yourself. Tickets are only £15, it kicks off at 6pm and we’ll ensure you’re suitably fed and watered.
BL: Love it, Sam. So tell us why have you chosen to work with the charity Special Effect and what are you hoping to accomplish with them on the night?
SC: The work Special Effect do is frankly incredible and as a gaming focused charity we’re really pleased to have them involved and have the opportunity to support what they do.
As a UK based charity, they modify gaming technology, consoles and such, to enable those with disabilities to play variations of popular games such as FIFA. These are custom designed, and can be anything from eye gaze controls to voice controls, you can check out their site here to watch some videos and get a better idea.
We hope to raise a small amount via donations on the night, but more importantly this is to give them a platform to explain what they do to stakeholders from the wider esports and betting industries. They’ll have an area showcasing their product on the evening for attendees to try out, and they’ll give a brief presentation on their work too. The more people that know about what these lot do, the better!
BL: Fantastic, I love that you’ve involved such a relevant charity partner. Since the launch of Esports Insider and the Forum Series, how has the interest in esports & betting grown from your perspective?
SC: We launched EsportsInsider.com in August 2016 as a part of SBC Global off the back of ever increasing interest in esports betting content on SBC News.
Esports Insider covers the esports industry at large and isn’t at all limited to gambling, but naturally this is a significant growth area. Esports betting has grown both in terms of igaming and the casino space, especially in Las Vegas, where there is now a dedicated venue, Millennial Esports’ venue at the Neonopolis in downtown, in addition to a number of casinos committing to esports in some form. The Luxor for example is renovating a 30,000 sq foot space in its famous Strip casino which will be dedicated to esports; this is set to open in 2018. More widely the Senate Bill 240 in Nevada has paved the way for esports betting to be fully legalised in the state. It’s an exciting proposition for Vegas casinos, and for those interested in this side of things, keep an eye on ESIC who have some educational events on this front in the works.
As for bookmakers over here and in Europe, we’ve seen Betway commit a ‘six figure sponsorship’ to the team NiP, ESP.Bet agree a deal with well-known figure Thorin to be their brand ambassador, and more bookmakers commit to offering more markets on evermore titles. Most recently, a look at Bet365 ahead of The International, the largest Dota 2 tournament of the year, saw an exceptional amount of outright markets and this I’m sure will be a trend that continues.
As for our Forums, we only kicked off in July but we’ve been keen to do one on the convergence of betting and esports since the conception of the idea for these events. Anyone with any questions or interest at all can come along and be sure to receive a number of extensive and accurate answers from those in the know!
BL: You’re clearly off to a good start so far. What can we expect to learn about esports at the upcoming Betting on Sports Conference?
SC: I’m extremely pleased with the speaker line up we’ve put together for Betting on Esports.
BoE will have its own exhibition area and its own track over two mornings; this will consist of six panels covering everything from the ambassador opportunity, to integrity issues, legal challenges, what to do about data, how to run an esports book and the exceptional opportunity for casinos. We’ve high profile speakers such as Kinguin CEO Viktor Wanli, Seth Schorr Chairman of the Downtown Grand, ESL UK Managing Director James Dean, Win Technologies Betway’s Head of Esports Adam Savinson, Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood, Pinnacle’s Trading Director Marco Blume and plenty more.
Sponsors have come in to support the event such as Millennial Esports, GameCo, Abios Gaming, RTSmunity, Digital Fuel and PVP.me, and we now only have extremely limited space remaining in the exhibition area.
With our mission to ensure nobody comes away from BoE stating they were bored at any one point, outside of the exhibition areas, panel chats and networking parties each evening, there’ll be a gaming tournament (title TBC) courtesy of Digital Fuel and the option to play your heart out at any point during the two days. This stand is also suitably well positioned next to the bar. We’ll see you there!
BL: Yes you will, looking forward to it! Thank you so much for your time today, Sam.