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March 14, 2017

Madden NFL 17 Event Kicking Off At New Las Vegas Esports Arena

Joss Wood March 14, 2017
Millennial Esports formally opened its new esports arena in downtown Las Vegas at the beginning of March.

Now, Millennial has announced that “thE Arena” will host the first ever EA Sports-sanctioned Madden NFL tournament on the West Coast.

The event will take place from March 25 and 26. It will consist of a doubleheader Madden Championship Series Madden NFL 17 Tournament on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Both events will take place simultaneously in the new arena.

The event is offering a $10,000 prize pool. Entrants will earn double Madden Championship Series (MCS) points for qualifying for the $500,000 Madden Championship in May.

thE Arena aims to make Nevada an esports destination

Millennial Esports CEO Alex Igelman explained:

“Our new arena is wired for live casting, hosting players and facilitating tournaments and seats up to 500 people. EA Sports is allocating more resources within the Esports community and we are proud to be able to re-invest into Downtown Las Vegas.”

He told Esports Betting Report that thE Arena was a strategic investment:

“thE Arena is a central part of our company’s overall strategy and allows us to showcase our production and technical capabilities in one strategic location. As the first permanent Esports arena and studio in Nevada, we are pioneering what we think will be a mainstay feature of urban centers and casinos of the future. We feel that what we are doing is in line with the foresight and leadership in Esports demonstrated by the Governor and the Nevada Gaming Control Board.”

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has expressed his strong support for establishing Nevada as an esports center. He encouraged the Nevada Gaming Control Board to permit regulated esports betting.

Esports betting has begun, thE Arena will help it grow

Betting was not available for the inaugural event at thE Arena, which was a North American Halo World Championship Qualifier.

However, Nevada has begun to take its first regulated esports bets. As a venue capable of attracting top esports competitions, thE Arena looks set to play a role in esports betting growth.

Igelman told ESBR:

“With the recent approval of esports wagers, we have the luxury of being the only place in North America where you could have an esports event and bet on it under the same roof. Pretty amazing.”

Igelman made clear that the prospect remains theoretical at the moment since the stadium doesn’t have a gaming license, but he presents an enticing future possibility.

The Millennial Esports Madden events are both free to enter for esports fans.

Player registration is open until 11:59 p.m. on March 23, 2017. Last-minute registration will take place inside the Millennial Esports Arena, March 25, 2017 at 9 a.m.

Players who pre-register will receive a discounted entry fee. Organizers will assign those players to matches based on skill-level.

Norway’s Gaming Regulator Threatens Action Against Esports Skin Betting Operators

Joss Wood March 14, 2017
The Norwegian Gaming Authority published a note in which it states that skin betting is legally defined as gambling and that operators will face sanctions.

Skins are virtual items that people buy and trade in video games.

In the note, the NGA determines that skins in games like CS:GO constitute a virtual currency:

“Skins can normally not be exchanged for cash, but it is possible to take the skins out of the game and of other markets for buying and selling. There are separate online casinos where you can bet and win skins, and in such cases, skins a virtual currency that can be used for gambling. We have seen several examples of Norwegian children and young people who have spent thousands of money from this.”

It concludes that using such a virtual currency for gambling brings the activity within its jurisdiction.

“A gaming site that allows betting and pays out prizes in skins is in our view an online casino, and in Norway, only Norsk Tipping is allowed to offer online casino.”

Norway is following other European precedents

Norway is not the first European regulator to analyze skin betting.

As part of its argument, the NGA refers to the UK’s experience, where the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) made a similar decision.

However, in Norway, there is no open licensing system for operators; the market is a state monopoly. Other examples:

  • In the UK, skin gambling operators will be able to offer skin gambling legally. However, they acquire a gambling license from the UKGC.
  • Most recently, the Isle of Man amended its regulations to allow skin betting under license.
  • The Malta Gaming Authority is considering its own approach.
  • The Dutch regulator also ruled that skin betting is gambling, and put out its own warning notice. Online gambling regulation (paywall) is slowly making its way through the process of implementation in the Netherlands, so no licenses are yet available and all online gambling is currently prohibited.

During 2017 other European regulators are likely to make their position clear on the issue.

Valve’s shutdown triggered the regulators’ interest

The publicity surrounding Valve’s shutdown of CS:GO skin betting in mid-2016 looks to have been the trigger that got euro-regulators interested in the skin betting issue.

The first regulator to jump on board in the US was the Washington State Gambling Commission. The WSGC sent Valve a cease and desist letter in October 2016.

The letter came after Valve had already sent its own letters to skin betting sites. That was at a time when a few still continued to operate.

Under-age gambling is driving skin gambling up the priority list

The regulatory interest stems from the fact that children play video games. The possibility of them enabling illegal gambling sends alarm bells to regulators.

In the UKGC’s report that discussed skin gambling, the authors determined the activity was fundamentally no different to other forms of gambling. It expressed concern that it might be especially attractive to children.

The NGA justified its decision partly on this basis. It quoted a study which showed the interest young people have in CS:GO:

“Media’s survey “Children and Media 2016” shows that 25% of Norwegian boys 15-16 years old playing the computer game “Counter Strike: Global Offensive.”

To back up the point the NGA points to its own experience:

“We have seen several examples of Norwegian children and young people who have spent thousands of money from this.”

Threats and opportunities for skin betting operators

The MGA, UKGC and Isle of Man Gaming Commission are all forward thinkers among regulators. They are providing the opportunity for skin gambling to develop into a legitimate part of the online gambling industry.

However, skin gambling remains in its infancy. More scandals or attempts to market to under-age players will bring the industry into disrepute–skin gambling could be killed in its tracks.

There is even a risk that the reputational risk could extend to licensed and regulated operators that offer esports betting on the same games. The general public may simply not see the difference between CS:GO skin betting and CS:GO betting.

The NGA ends its note by offering its own threat to skin betting operators:

“Stopping illegal betting has always been a priority at the Gaming Board, especially where games offer is aimed at children and young people. We will therefore examine the issues surrounding gambling with skins, and consider sanctions against operators who offer this in Norway.”

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