[toc]The Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). It’s the third such agreement with global gambling authorities since the body was formed this time last year.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Maltese regulator will collaborate with operators which offer esports to provide information on suspicious betting patterns. It will also assist ESIC in investigating any potential insider betting on esports events and competitions.
Among the operators licensed in Malta is leading esports betting brand Betway.
ESIC allied with various jurisdictions
ESIC signed MoUs with the Nevada Gaming Control Board in March and with the UK Gambling Commission in late May.
Joseph Cuschieri, chairman of the MGA, said he was pleased to have signed the agreement with the integrity coalition. “Keeping abuse and crime out of sports betting is high on our agenda and the MGA will always be at the forefront to collaborate in such matters both locally and internationally,” he added.
Ian Smith, ESIC integrity commissioner, said an information-sharing mechanism had already been developed with the MGA. “Adding the experience and vital information of our other partners in the information exchange to the Authority’s intelligence database and vice versa will undoubtedly strengthen all our efforts considerably,” he said.
Smith told EsportsBettingReport.com that each new agreement worked to further aid the fight against those looking to take advantage of the nascent nature of the esports scene.
“With each agreement we paint betting fraudsters and match-fixers further and further into a corner,” he said.
Group highlights esports integrity
Giving an airing to the integrity message remains an important part of the task ahead, suggested Smith. “We continue our player education programme at LAN events and we speak at as many conferences and seminars as we can alongside recruiting more and more members into ESIC.”
One founding member of ESIC is Sportradar. Its head of esports, James Watson, welcomed the news regarding Malta. Watson said it was a another step towards protecting an ecosystem where there were still weaknesses around clarity and hierarchies.
“This kind of fragmented reality does suggest vulnerability to attack and difficulty in bringing about consensus,” he said. “That is why ESIC is so critical. It represents a bold intention to coordinate strategy and action in defence of esports integrity and ultimately reputation.”
Watson pointed out that Sportradar started working with ESIC from its inception and was the first company to provide bet monitoring to ESIC. Sportradar also launched the first of a series of match-fixing workshops to both players and teams at Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament in Katowice, Poland last year.
Increased membership will expand the scope of ESIC
He added that ESIC’s capabilities as a body would only improve as it added “credible and important” stakeholders. One such is the publishers. Smith admitted that particularly when it comes to skin betting, they have a vital role to play to limit the “unfettered” activities of the recent past.
“I do think it’s becoming an issue again, but, to be fair to Valve, it’s a really hard thing to police and take action against. I’m not saying there’s not more they could do, but I think they’re reacting proportionately for now and the pressure’s mounting. It must be very frustrating for them.”
Another gambling regulator to hold discussions with ESIC is the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. Susan O’Leary, the chief executive of the commercial arm Alderney eGambling, said global gambling regulators could act as the policemen in particular areas.
“There needs to be a two-pronged approach,” she said. “The esports industry itself needs to have some kind of independent body to ensure the integrity of games, athletes, sponsorship agreements and so on, just as FIFA and others aim to keep a watching brief over international football.”
“This is not something the Alderney Gambling Control Commission can do, of course. However, they can regulate bookmakers wanting to offer bets on esports – both cash and skin betting – to ensure they are meeting the internationally-recognised gold standards expected of their licensees,” O’Leary remarked.
Esports industry heeded the call for more oversight
She added that this could “go a long way” to stamping out the issue of underage gambling, where esports faces “an uphill battle” because of skin betting.
Watson at Sportradar remains optimistic. He pointed out that bringing the MGA on board – and potentially other regulators globally – “speaks to ESIC’s focus.”
He noted that such moves were in line with various calls from public institutions to strengthen collaborations and information-sharing arrangements.
“Those who love esports should draw comfort from the fact that these stakeholders have heeded that call,” he concluded.
O’Leary from Alderney agreed. “It is important for regulators such as the Alderney Gambling Control Commission and stakeholders in the wider esports industry to work together to understand the challenges the sector presents, and how we can combine forces to ensure consumers remain protected,” she said.
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