As esports continue to grow in popularity and projected yearly revenue, the threat of addiction to gambling in esports is a real threat that should be addressed. According to PlayUSA, esports has been a factor in the growth the video game industry, and becomes more entwined everyday with what was once a simple pastime.
As esports are considered sports, both in their marketing and competitors obtaining visas based on a classification of professional athletes, wagering on the outcome of events can be considered sports betting. Around the world, the rules governing such wagers differs, and not all places have even implemented regulation or language into their laws to consider the growth of esports.
Gambling addiction has similarities to gaming addiction. With gambling, the activities may begin as a fun, harmless diversion during one’s leisure time, but soon transform into an obsession with serious consequences on work and family life. Gaming addiction, meanwhile, is more controversial in its diagnosis. However, many lean toward agreeing that compulsion towards gaming and hyperfocus on in-game tasks to be main symptoms.
Both gaming and gambling often see those affected engaging in activities at the cost of fulfilling work and familial responsibilities, often without regard for the long-term negative consequences that can arise. The connection between the two types of addictions may not seem apparent at first, but one need only examine the ongoing controversy regarding loot box mechanics to see the parallels between the two.
According to recent reports in the UK, gambling among children has risen steadily over the past few years, from 0.4% in 2016, to 1.7% in 2018. One of the main sources of controversy regarding the source of these increases are Loot Boxes found in some video games. These are virtual packs of goods that maintain the contents as hidden until after purchase, with a small chance at obtaining rare items, similar to hitting a jackpot in gambling. Players are encouraged to purchase as many of these as possible, and in some cases, rack up a large tab doing so, spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
As esports continue to grow, the progression from purchasing these loot boxes to gambling on the outcome of an event may not be far off.
This is especially true because many games push hard for esports components of their games to be publicized as much as possible, with budgets allocated to ensuring that the best players in the world are instantly recognizable by players of the game, and emulated.
Along the same topic, cheating in esports is already a concern that authorities need to keep an eye on for those who would coordinate to throw certain matches for the purposes of betting. In late August, six individual professional competitors of CS:GO were arrested in Australia for suspicious betting activity relating to esports, with 20 wagers affected in specific. The case is ongoing, but the concern is clear that where there is money to be made via wagers, all sorts of parties will emerge.
Preventing the formation of addiction, be it in gambling in a traditional sense, in esports, or with regards to spending too much time with video games, is a complex issue with no easy solution. Parents should monitor their children’s playtime and the types of games played, for some are far more egregious and bolder in the loot box mechanics offered to children. Legislation regarding loot boxes is another step that is continuing to gain steam and will hopefully lead to meaningful change within the industry. As consumers, we must vote with our wallets to support or exclude certain types of games from being popular
These are only some points to consider. The issue is very complicated, and not likely to become any easier as competitive esports continues to grow.