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Dejan Zalik

Esports Betting Site Unikrn Leaving Australia For Now, But Eyes Expansion

December 22, 2017

Unikrn is ending its real-money esports betting product in Australia, the company announced on Friday.

The move comes as Luxbet, an online betting division of the Australian gaming company Tabcorp, is closing its business. Unikrn, a big name in esports and esports betting, will be losing its licensing in that jurisdiction as a result.

According to Unikrn, it will be returning to Australia eventually but did not offer a timeline. The site also said that “no other region will be impacted.”

No more Unikrn in Australia

Due to Unikrn’s betting operations running through Luxbet, the company will have to stop its real-money operation Down Under. The closure of Luxbet is a result of a strategic review of the business, showing that the operations no longer align with the long-term interests of the parent company.

Luxbet, an endeavor that started in 2008, unfortunately wasn’t yielding the right results. This has been shown by the latest reported earnings before interest and taxes, which amounted to a loss of $13 million.

Unikrn indicated this was an expected move in its blog:

As part of our restructuring, we’re splitting with our long-time partners at Luxbet in order to facilitate a long-term growth with an improved product. We have known about this transition for some time and have been preparing.

We will continue to operate with the same Isle of Man license, and will be returning to Australia … with an infrastructure better-suited to roll out our ambitious future projects.

UK not affected, Malta license allows Europe expansion

The split with and closure of Luxbet does not affect Unikrn’s operations in the UK. According to the site, users “will see no changes” in that jurisdiction.

Unikrn also recently started rolling out real-money wagering across Europe. Not only has the company obtained a Malta license, but has also made strategic moves by partnering with leading French betting operator RBP.

Unikrn touched on the plans for its product in Europe:

Moving into a region that accounts for about 10% of the world’s population is a complicated ordeal, but fortunately one for which we came prepared. With that roll-out, we’re committed to bringing skill-based betting, improved spectator betting, including live and 24 hour options and other expansions throughout the new year.

Unikrn prepared for the future

While having to pull out of Australia isn’t great news for Unikrn, there has been plenty to celebrate of late. The Seattle-based company has been very active in the last couple of years. It’s built a reputable go-to hub in the esports industry.

  • With the recent initail coin offering, for example, the company raised $31 million, giving it plenty of funds for future development.
  • The recent partnership with BetGenius additionally shows its drive for excellence in esports. The two set off to launch an immersive betting platform featuring data analytics, content, pre-match and live betting markets. The project should further strengthen Unikrn’s leading position in the industry.
  • Unikrn upgraded its media partnership with Playwire.
  • MGM Resorts International and Unikrn are partnering for esports tournaments that will be held at MGM Grand’s LEVEL UP.

Despite the short-term setback, things are looking up for the esports betting specialist.

France’s National Lottery Launches Free Esports Betting Site With Help Of Sportradar

November 17, 2017

Sportradar, the Switzerland-based company that collects and analyzes sports data, partnered with France’s national lottery to launch a free esports betting site in the country.

The national lottery called Francaise des Jeux will use Sportradar’s services to give esports fans a variety of tools to better understand the industry.

A wide range of content and statistics from esports competitions globally

The free esports betting site will cover esports events around the globe.

ParionsSport, FDJ’s sports betting brand, will receive an extension covering the competitive gaming industry. The new platform will get a wide range of Sportradar’s products, including an esports API, a statistics center, as well as esports betting odds and live wagering for all titles. Additionally, Sportradar’s Sportsbook Cloud will provide the web and mobile platform for the new site.

The new betting site will be developed in adherence with the country’s regulations, which currently do not allow real-money wagering.

“Sportradar’s reputation in the esports sector is impossible to ignore, they will bring us the content for this free esports betting offering and will undoubtedly support our mission to speak to a population of young adults with the principles of image and recruitment,” said ParisonsSport Business Unit Director Jean-Francis Beaulieu.

FDJ currently serves 26 million customers on its online platform and 31,000 stations across the country. These offer interactive lottery games, draw games and games of expertise, such as sports betting. The sport betting brand, ParionsSport, has a customer base of 3.5 million that generate €2.5 billion in revenue.

Sportradar Head of esports James Watson commented:

“We are excited to be working on ParionsSport esports offering and to help deepen the connection between a range of esports titles and these savvy fans, who are looking for interaction and insight. This is an exciting time for esports in France.”

Sportradar expanding industry presence

The multinational corporation with offices in 24 countries around the world is continuously expanding its presence in the esports industry.

The partnership with FDJ is one of many for Sportradar within the past couple of years.

  • In September, Sportradar partnered with esports platform PvPRO for audiovisual streams and data distribution.
  • A year earlier, esports analytics company DOJO Madness enhanced its product offering by collaborating with Sportradar.
  • In a similar fashion, the company joined forces with ESL in 2015 for processing and distribution of real-time match data.

Sportradar’s products for bookmakers, including in-game and pre-match odds, market monitoring and trading services prove to be the ideal toolbox for the esports industry.

Furthermore, the company is also taking an active role in helping steer the industry in the right direction. One example was joining the establishment of the Esports Integrity Coalition. Sportradar’s market leading Fraud Detection System and relationships with the licensed bookmaking industry help bring more integrity to the market.

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Increasing activity in the esports betting market

The Sportradar-FDJ deal is only one of many recent developments seen in the market. Pinnacle, for example, recently launched a new esports betting hub. After presenting impressive full-year figures last year, the company keeps going full steam ahead on esports betting.

Unikrn, the company that’s been making headlines since it’s founding in 2014, is also continuously expanding. The company recently made moves to expand its service offering across Europe.

It comes as no surprise that an increasing amount of activity is coming to the esports betting market. The area has been steadily growing in recent years, increasing its popularity and revenue year-over-year.

Top Experts Expected For ‘Betting on Esports’ Conference On Tap For London This Fall

June 29, 2017

Betting on Esports, a conference with a focus on the esports betting industry, is scheduled for September in London.

The event is part of the bigger Betting on Sports international trade show, which is taking place for the second time this year.

Betting on Esports conference debuts in September

Witnessing the immense growth of the esports betting market recently, the trade show organizers are adding a new section dedicated to esports. The Betting on Esports conference will run September 13-15 and will feature many high-profile experts from the industry.

Six panel sessions will host discussions about the latest development and trends in the area.

As is typical for events like these, there will be no shortage of networking opportunities. Two evening parties and an esports betting exhibition space (where eight companies will present their offerings) will provide that opportunity.

Those interested in the event can get tickets here for the event at Olympia Conference Centre.

Industry leaders discussing hot topics

Discussion panels will focus on topics like industry regulation and integrity, as well as finding a bridge between casinos and competitive gaming. To bring the required know-how to the table, the panels will include many industry experts as speakers.

The confirmed speakers include:

  • Millennial Esports’ CEO Alex Igelman
  • Unikrn CEO and Founder Rahul Sood
  • Esports Pools (ESP) CEO Scott Burton
  • PVP.ME CMO Michael Doyle
  • Squawka Co-Founder Sanjit Atwal
  • ESL UK Managing Director James Dean
  • Danske Spil Esports Manager Kasper Nemeth
  • GameCo CEO Blaine Graboyes
  • Pinnacle’s Head of Sportsbook Marco Blume
  • M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment’s Head of Digital Ellie Reed
  • Unibet’s Eric Konings
  • ESIC’s Chairman Kevin Carpenter
  • Esports lawyer Anna Baumann
  • British Esports Association’s Dom Sacco
  • Strive Sponsorship’s Managing Director Malph Minns
  • Chairman of Downtown Grand Seth Schorr

With so much expertise gathered in one place, it shows that the event cannot be missed.

“With Nevada’s recent passage of SB 240, esports betting will soon be a common occurrence in Nevada sportsbooks,” Igelman said referring a new law allowing pari-mutuel wagering on esports. “We are looking forward to Nevada’s continuing leadership in the space and we expect the State’s involvement to legitimize esports betting and set the standard for integrity and oversight of esports events.

“In the same token, conferences like ‘Betting on Esports’ are leading the way in educating the industry on the unique challenges and opportunities for all those seeking entry in the space. We are proud to be an integral part of this.”

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The rise of the esports betting industry

Following the trend of the overall esports market growth, the esports betting industry has been continuously growing in the recent years.

More structure and integrity thanks to dedicated organizations like the ESIC is one example of ongoing positive development. With some unlicensed betting websites still in operation, it’s in the mutual interest of industry participants to tackle issues that are bringing the industry down.

Moreover, companies like Unikrn are looking at the bigger picture of the industry’s potential. Combining the interests of the growing esports betting area and the established industry of casinos could further enhance the already promising growth of the area. Others seek to expand their established successful business model to the esports industry. In either case, there’s enough evidence that the interest and passion for the field is present.

CS:GO And LOL Analyst Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields Joins Forces With Fantasy Esports Platform

June 5, 2017

Esports fantasy platform EsportsPools is adding a new player to its squad.

Duncan “Thorin” Shields, a CS:GO and League of Legends journalist and analyst, is joining ESP to help it grow in the community.

The partnership should further expand the platform’s presence in the esports industry and help it become the go-to destination for fantasy esports and esports betting fans.

Thorin, the esports historian

Thanks to his game expertise and knowledge of the community, Shields has become a personality in the scene.

Since 2001, his YouTube shows and other appearances have been a valuable contribution to the games’ communities. Besides his nickname “Thorin,” he’s also called “the esports historian. That’s thanks to his in-depth knowledge of teams, players and the games themselves.

“I am very excited to work with ESP moving forward. There are many shady betting sites trying to enter the esports space. However, ESP is nothing like that,” Shields said.

:They make sure everything is done by the book, ethically, and they care about the safety of the users. ESP’s product is very well cut, and I am looking forward to using it myself.”

ESP hopes that with the addition of Thorin, the company can continue its successful path to becoming a globally renowned esports fantasy destination.

“We have been talking to Thorin for a while now, and I am ecstatic to have him officially representing ESP,” said ESP CEO Scott Burton. “Not only do I find Thorin to be a great person to work with, but I am also a huge fan of his content. I can’t wait to see what Thorin and his influence in the esports scene can do for ESP.”

ESP successfully leveraging industry partnerships

The Vancouver-based company has been partnering with influential gaming organizations consistently since the platform’s launch in 2015.

ESP signed collaborations with Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), Vexed Gaming, and StatsHelix during the first year of the company’s operations. In 2016, ESP partnered with the popular CS:GO team, Flipsid3 Tactics, to further expand its presence.

The team at ESP is proud of is progress, which helped it grow into a popular destination for esports fans:

“During these partnerships, ESP developed a strong foundation within the industry as an ethical, reliable, and exciting fantasy and betting esports company.”

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Thorin partnership comes with promotions

The company announced a number of promotions to celebrate the partnership.

“To celebrate our collaboration with Thorin, ESP is offering a huge number of giveaways and fantasy pools to all customers, new and old. Thorin will provide his trademark Thoughts and Reflections on Youtube for esports events that are happening around these epic promotions,” said Carlo Scappaticci, chief marketing officer at ESP.

Thorin will first represent the ESP brand at the upcoming CS:GO PGL Minor, which runs between June 15 and 18.

Nevada Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Pari-Mutuel Wagering On Esports Events

May 31, 2017

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill on Saturday that makes pari-mutuel betting on esports events permissible under the law.

The legislation amends the Nevada statutes regarding pari-mutuel betting systems to include competitive gaming and will go into effect on July 1.

Back in November, state regulators already gave the green light for straight betting on esports. Now, esports wagering, on a pari-mutuel basis is officially a part of the law.

Esports betting bill without word “esports”

While the bill is “the esports betting bill,” it actually doesn’t feature the word “esports” in its language. Instead, competitive gaming in the bill has been included under the “other events” part, which was added to the current list of betting activities.

A hearing held on March 23 served as the pivotal point for the activity to become law. It included a testimony of former professional esports player Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel. He detailed his training regime, which helped convince regulators that esports players are “athletes.”

AG Burnett, chairman of the Gaming Control Board, said:

“Ideally, you would have people coming from all over the globe to compete, with people paying to come in and bet on that event like you would a sportsbook.”

He added that hopefully one day we would see esports events held at T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip. That’s a 20,000-seat venue that hosts concerts and UFC fights and eventually for NHL hockey games.

Treating esports in the right way

As esports grows and becomes highly popular around the globe, proper structures have to be added to the activities surrounding it, including esports betting. Making esports wagering a part of the bill is a great example of proper progress.

“Wagering on events other than sports and races continues to gain global popularity, but Nevada statutes regarding the types of events allowed under the pari-mutuel system wagering are unclear,” said Boyd law student Nelson Lambert, testifying before the Senate Committee on Judiciary in March. “Our proposed modifications adapt the Nevada Revised Statutes to suit the growing popularity of these events.”

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Nevada’s road to becoming the US esports hub

Besides being the first U.S. state to offer legal betting on esports, Nevada is going big on esports. The area has seen steady developing of local infrastructure towards becoming as welcoming as possible for potential esports events.

The Halo Championship Series and Madden NFL Championship taking place in Millenial Esports’ 15,000 square-foot venue was a success. Moreover, MLG Vegas and the Battle on the Strip also serve as great examples of how perfect the city is for hosting esports events.

As more events pop up, more local players show interest in the growing industry. This should help grow the scene further and attract more fans to the area.

With the progress towards a welcoming esports environment, Las Vegas is on the right path to becoming an esports hub. Additionally, the never-ending growth of the overall esports scene will also play a positive role.

With its popularity, we can expect no shortage of enthusiastic fans to attend these great events.

Global Poker Index Refocuses As Gaming Player Index By Including Esports Rankings

May 11, 2017

A recent announcement made public that the Global Poker Index is moving into a new territory.

Alexandre Dreyfus, the man behind the GPI, issued a press release stating that the company is adding new features to the ranking system.

By including other games like Hearthstone and Dota, the company is getting involved in the esports industry in its own way.

A compelling service in the gaming world

The Global Poker Index is a ranking system for live poker players. The index ranks 450,000 live tournament poker players in the world. GPI updates its rankings on a weekly basis.

The main source of data is The Hendon Mob, the biggest poker database.

GPI works with over 1,400 tournaments organizers in 97 countries. In doing so, the company has become an authority-like figure in competitive live tournament poker results and player rankings. However, the ongoing growth of esports and the mixture between online poker and competitive gaming has changed the game.

The company now looks to expand its skills into new areas.

The new vision is to transform the current GPI into the Gaming Player Index – the Competitive Gaming Ranking Authority.

“We’d serve the same role across games as we have done for poker, aggregating and ranking players across games. Crunching the numbers and offering a full image of the competitive landscape in each game,” said Dreyfus.

Online poker industry facing ongoing erosion

As innovations, disruption, and non “poker only” competitive offers become more pervasive, the online poker scene is becoming more challenging.

Explained Dreyfus:

“We see trends towards both from within our own audience as well as the people we interact with in gaming and in the media industry, that digital competitive gaming is growing steadily while traditional online poker is facing a continued downturn.

The newest generation of players simply don’t find online poker appealing as a product – it hasn’t changed in 15 years and from their perspective (especially when compared to real time strategy games like Hearthstone or etc.), isn’t nearly as much fun.”

With these new features, the company hopes to bring the esports community and the online poker scene closer together.

“We believe that in the long run this will help bridge player communities across games while also helping to grow the game of poker. We’ve seen so many similarities and so many converging paths between players from these communities that it’s only the natural way forward for us,” Dreyfus remarked.

Diversification to esports is a forward path

The company hopes to capitalize on the recent exponential growth of esports. By executing the necessary changes, GPI could become the name for all competitive games.

“While poker has a very limited amount of ‘game publishers’ (if they can even be called that), the traditional video game industry and esports market has a much broader wealth of partners to work with, creating a healthy ecosystem to grow our initiatives,” Dreyfus noted.

A new ranking system tailored to a wide variety of esports titles could make the industry even more interesting. Additionally, established esports industry members would benefit from having a clear overview of current player rankings.

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Moving Time? ‘The International’ For Dota 2 Could Leave US In 2017 Because Of Travel Ban

February 13, 2017

This year’s The International, the biggest annual tournament in Dota 2, isn’t necessarily taking place in the US.

The recent travel ban — via an executive order from President Donald Trump — could result in the TI7 moving to a location outside the US. That ban is currently on hold after a federal court ruled the order should not be enforced, for the time being.

The tournament has taken place in Seattle’s Key Arena for the past few years.

Visa uncertainties linked to the ban are affecting players and other members of the esports community. Because of this, game publisher Valve is considering finding a new spot for the event.

“We’re gonna run the event no matter what”

At a recent round-table discussion at Valve’s studio in Bellevue, Wash., CEO Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson, Valve’s spokesperson, commented on how the travel ban affects the company.

The two main affected areas hiring and esports, which is directly connected to the annual The International event. Johnson stated that “any pressure on visas getting into the United States in worrisome for us.”

Visa uncertainties are a common occurrence in the esports community. There were a couple of situations in the past where players had troubles obtaining visas during certain events. As Newell pointed out, because esports is such a nascent industry, it’s already difficult for some players’ work status to be recognized. And the fact that some of them are minors makes the situation even worse.

“If you’re an opera singer, it’s pretty easy to get a visa. Like the State Department kind of understands who these people are. If you’re a Nobel Prize winner, they kind of know who you are. When you’re an unemployed [teenager] without strong ties to this country, it’s more challenging.” said Newell.

Because of the issues the travel ban brings to the organization, Valve is reconsidering this year’s TI location. The company said that moving the event to a location outside the US is also an option.

“We’re going to run the event no matter what,” Newell said. “Ideally we’d run it here [in Seattle] because it has a bunch of advantages being close to our office. But the event’s going to happen. So yes, if it became too difficult, we’d find a way.”

If it would come to that, a potential spot for the TI 7 could be Cologne, Germany, the place where TI was born.

The International among the most well-known Tier 1 esports events

Dota 2 is one of the top titles in the esports industry. And when it comes to one main event for an annual championship, The International serves that purpose. The event will take place for the seventh consecutive time this year, and it has grown tremendously since its introduction in 2011.

Attendance, coverage, and the prize pool have skyrocketed within the 7-year period. Last year, for example, the grand final attracted almost 6 million spectators. The prize pool has also reached a new record high, amounting to $20.8 million.

Events like The International are key for esports

While the esports industry is still expanding, events like The International are important for spreading awareness and popularity of competitive gaming. As one of the most successful events of Valve, it’s obvious that the company is willing to do everything possible to continue with this tournament.

Even though the travel ban is currently on hold after a federal judge issued a restraining order blocking it, the White House is still fighting this decision.

Whatever comes out of the case will directly affect the future of this year’s The International. Fortunately enough, Valve likely will make the event happen, no matter how the executive order unfolds.

Leading Boutique Agency Prodigy Sports Launches Esports Recruiting Practice

February 2, 2017

Recruitment agency Prodigy Sports announced a new division focused on esports. The company will serve as the middleman between executives and the firms in the competitive gaming industry. It plans to assist clients with hiring senior management.

Another milestone for esports

The firm wants to utilize its resources to source, identify, and place executives in the growing industry of esports. The industry has expanded tremendously in the last couple of years, with 2016 being the most successful ever. Prodigy Sports’ entry into esports will surely help in improving the industry.

“We have such a wide number of clients in professional sports…teams, management, agencies, technology companies, governing bodies…who have called and asked about a path to growth in esports as they start to get into this relatively new business, so we are pleased to be one of the first firms to devote time, effort and manpower to matching opportunities and personnel in the space,” said Prodigy Sports founder and CEO Scott Carmichael.

Utilizing experience from traditional sports in esports

As one of the nation’s leading search and recruitment companies, Prodigy has 60 years of experience in the sports business. By using its know-how, the company is looking to pair experienced professionals from the sports industry with esports organizations.

This should also help esports to learn lessons from traditional sports, making sure the former won’t repeat certain mistakes. The latter indsutry has increasingly been investing in esports.

“Any mature business dedicating resources to esports needs to be able to identify and source leadership like they would for any other area of their organization,” added Carmichael. “While esports may be a new and fast-growing business to many, its challenges are not new, and we are looking forward to be able to marry the needs of those entering the field with a deep, diverse and unique database that we are always building.”

More teams moving to esports

Prodigy made the decision to move into esports because of existing sports clients getting involved with various esports organizations.

“These companies, many of whom are already working with Prodigy Sports, have a fast-growing need to have skilled people help manage these businesses as they mature,” said Carmichael.

As more traditional sports organizations move into the esports scene, the business of competitive gaming and traditional sports become intertwined. Last year, soccer clubs like FC Schalke, Valencia, Manchester United, and FC Bayern Munich invested in esports after recognizing its potential.

“As esports further integrates with some of the world’s most valuable sports franchises, there will be a rapid enhancement of the esports business, particularly as it enters the consciousness of a much broader fan base,” said Mr. Carmichael. The result, he added, “will be a further explosion of the exponential revenue that we’ve already started to witness in the sector.”

The company’s esports operations will run from its New Jersey office. The firm has already expanded its team, adding professionals to meet the demand.

The business side of esports

Recently, numerous companies and individuals have stared focusing on the business functions in the esports field.

In December, Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner launched the consulting firm Code Red. He is looking to bring together parties that are interested in entering esports. Bryce Blum, an esports lawyer, launched his own law firm that’s focused entirely on esports.

The newly formed Copenhagen-based marketing and media rights firm RFRSH Entertainment also plans to bring esports ahead. It has plans to raise and invest $30 million in esports during the next few years.

As the industry grows, more business opportunities will arise. We’ll surely see more organizations, especially from the traditional sports field, making a move into esports.

Attorney Launches First Law Firm Focused Entirely On Esports

January 5, 2017

Bryce Blum, a well-known lawyer involved in esports, has launched his own law firm focusing entirely on the industry.

Electronic Sports & Gaming Law aims to support and represent esports teams, players and institutions in the ever-growing industry of esports.

Blum made the announcement on Twitter:

ESG Law, first of its kind

Here is what Blum had to say about his new firm:

“ESG Law goes beyond the typical attorney‑client relationship. Woven into the fabric of the esports ecosystem and deeply invested in its future growth, we are not simple service providers; we are engaged citizens of the esports community that create legal solutions to a constantly evolving set of challenges.”

Interested parties can now reach out to the company that offers a great deal of specialized expertise for the competitive gaming industry.

Blum, who has been working as an attorney in the esports industry for a while now, brings lots of esports experience to the table.

Besides being the co-founder of Interactive Media & Entertainment Law, a firm that creates future-ready law in esports, Blum is also an in-house counsel for Unikrn. Unikrn is one of the most successful esports betting companies in the industry and an organization that has been steadily promoting integrity in the industry.

Blum is also the co-manager of the esports division of Catalyst Sports & Media, a recently established sports agency. The organization offers strategic advisory and representation in basketball, football and esports.

With all of his experience and expertise, Blum also regularly provides opinions and commentary of various trending legal topics from the industry.

Who is using ESG Law?

So far, ESG Law’s clientele include famous organizations like Team Liquid, Fnatic, Team SoloMid, Beyond the Summit and others. Following the expansionary trend of esports, more will surely be added in the near future.

“Bryce knows esports better than any legal group we’ve used. He’s smart, navigates complex issues precisely, and is dependable. He always hits his deadlines and has impressed us every step of the way,” said Steve Arhancet, co-CEO of Team Liquid.

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New agencies emerging to improve competitive gaming

ESG Law is among the recently established agencies that are looking to make the competitive gaming industry a better and more fair place.

Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, a veteran from the esports community, has also recently set up his own shop called Code Red in order to help out anyone who’s interested in the field. The consultancy goal is to advise, help and represent industry talent.

Evolved Talent Agency and RFRSH Entertainment are two more examples of new agencies emerging in the industry. Both seek to represent talent, making sure that up-and-coming stars get treated fairly.

Esports is slowly and surely gaining world fame, but with global expansion comes the need for transparency and fairness in the industry. While there are still things that need to be done in terms of getting esports to the point where traditional sports is, companies like ESG Law and Code Red can definitely help in getting there.