Foley: Outlook on Esports Remains Strong, But Fears of Match-Fixing Abound

The Fourth annual Esports Survey Report based on the research of law firm Foley & Lardner in collaboration with Sports Business Journal (SBJ) and The Esports Observer (TEO) is in and the results promise a bullish year ahead for competitive video gaming.

Esports Outlook Remains Positive for 2022

Carried out among 430 professionals on all levels of esports, the survey indicates that investment in the sector will continue to increase, with a lot more targeted private finance trickling into the sector.

Online streaming platforms will remain the biggest driver of growth in the first half of 2022. However, along with that, there are fears that esports needs more regulation. Now, 72% of all interviews agree that esports needs an overarching governing body, with the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) already carrying out much of that.

This is particularly true in the context of increasing esports betting activity worldwide. Parimatch, a European and CIS region esports betting agency, reported that it took four million bets in 2021 on Team Spirit, one of its main partners, alone.

As the esports betting market increases, though, concerns swirl about more match-fixers getting involved. This comes in the global context of more jurisdictions giving an official go-ahead to esports, with the United States currently opening up its legal market.

Esports though has one specific advantage over traditional sports betting markets and that is the fact that it’s run on computers. Because of that, machine learning solutions may be used to study individual games and create better odds and pricing algorithms.

At the same time, there is a spike in the active esports audiences who are either sworn fans or casual viewers. However, the threat of dodgy practices persists. In 2021, the Esports Integrity Commission was forced to carry out a number of enforcement actions.

Foley’s survey addressed those concerns, which cited that half of the respondents believed there was a lack of an inherent system to allow for the proper monitoring and fraud detection of such practices.

Too Many Chefs in the Esports Kitchen

In fact, the lack of a regulating body was the main fear that respondents cited when arguing what could stifle the growth of esports growth. Interestingly, only 16% said that esports does not need an overarching body, which is significantly down from the 40% in 2020.

The survey cited a number of organizations that have attempted to become just that, with the International Esports Federation, the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, the Global Esports Federation, and the World Esports Association breeding nothing but skepticism and confusion in the end.

The 2020 survey cited a general lack of awareness of esports betting products, but the latest edition argued that this has much approved. The good news is that not all is bleak and esports does in fact have a robust culture of spotting underhand practices

Even though fraud detection solutions are not fully available, some outliers such as Sportradar are marking sure to target the esports market. Overall, there has been a strong push by law enforcement to maintain esports clear of crime.

Australian and US authorities have taken legal action against match-fixers, and players and organizations who attempt to fix games are no longer just facing public shaming. They are liable to serious criminal penalties as established by a court of law.

With the prize pools and interest in esports growing incessantly, more oversight on esports betting is always welcome.

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