The most captivating aspect of the internet is the freedom it gives you, anyone can do whatever and whenever online. If we can continue to dodge the abundance of obnoxious Family First lobbies and over-protective, proactive suburban parents in this country then it will stay that way. This has resulted in a huge number of activities becoming common-place, be it trolling, amateur pornography, competitive video-games, illegal money laundering or frustrating opinion-based blogs. Gambling, whether for legitimate sports or frivolous novelty, shares the same freedom and has been on the rise for the better part of a decade. The link between online gambling and competitive video-games isn't something new, but the two are becoming increasingly connected. Spectating e-sports and gambling has become an ever-growing symbiotic relationship that is mimicking real sports.
Taking a closer look can reveal a glimpse of the future. Sportsbet, a multinational betting corporation, hosts a huge number of online betting options. While priority remains on sports gambling, one can bet on current events, TV ratings, politics and Hollywood. Good business suggests that one should invest in your market, so early last year, Sportsbet signed a deal with the Hunter Sports Group. This effectively secured direct sponsorship for the Newcastle Knights and Newcastle Jets. While the teams continue to be able to operate, Sportsbet is given reign over the large amount of advertising space within the teams prospective home grounds. This allows direct marketing to the general public and with assured increase in gambling traffic comes more revenue for Sportsbet to spend on sponsorship, so on and so forth. With the relationship between sports and gambling cultivated in such a way that practically guarantees self-generating benefits for both sides, it's hard to argue that this isn't a natural evolution of the sports and gambling culture.
|"Put it all on pink..."|
The fighting game community, who has vehemently rejected the e-sports marketing machine in the past, has a culture which allows 'money-fights' and gambling as commonplace, to the point where it is an integral part in enjoying the competition. A key distinction to make between this and the 'real-sports' model is that the money exchanged is more akin to underground boxing, as there is no licensed bookkeeper that uses the enthusiastic participation of fans to generate more money, ala Sportsbet. The allure that this gives is perfect for the fighting game culture that has been celebrated for the better part of twenty years and is something to be defended and revered.
Real-time strategy professionals have a tendency to treat gambling as something completely different. A huge number of pro-gaming legends have made a living from competitive gambling, namely poker (both online and offline). This isn't your average drunken/safe bet that Ke$ha is actually a dude, this is an effective day-job for players which allows them to continue to follow their dream. In a scene where salaries are rare, poker in practice downtime is the vehicle of choice for aspiring StarCraft II professionals. This has lead to online poker websites slowly increasing their involvement in the e-sports scene over the last two years, even going so far as to act as sponsors for a handful of teams and communities. It's interesting that this participation has not shared the same objections that gambling outlets have faced in the real world. I can only attribute this to the fact that outside of a few heavy-hitters in the e-sports world, money is tight and any sponsorship is welcome and literally necessary to take. If White-Ra can write your essay then who's going to argue if StarCraft themed poker-machines start showing up next to 50 Lions and Indian Dreaming?
|"First we make essay, then we sell it!"|
Looking objectively at spectator-based activities such as Fantasy Proleague, you can notice similarities between this and the gambling that e-sports fans enjoy. If you do well in Fantasy Proleague, not only do you rise in the publicly accessible ranked ladder, but you garner the respect of your peers as being skillfully knowledgeable of the game, maps, players and overall climate of the meta-game. To some, this can be alluring as community notoriety can be achieved without having to put in the eight hour days required to dominate in-game. Arguing that this is a precursor to rampant, senseless gambling which cripples the families of gaming fans worldwide to the point where InControl fronts the E-SPORTS GAMBLING QUITLINE, is difficult. However, if you want practice before putting 'dat e-sports money' down on a premier tournament, the Fantasy Proleague is the perfect setting to refine your skills and put your knowledge of the scene to the test.
We're part of a developing community that is desperate to gain respect and credibility amongst the mainstream population. In that quest it's critical to pick your spots. It would be foolish to broadly target the general public and hope something sticks. Perhaps it's a little safer to contribute to the momentum already generated by some obscure parts of the gambling sphere. Ducking down to your local, sinking a schooner and chucking a few bucks on a team is incredibly easy and more often than not, physical betting machines can accommodate that need. Some can even argue that this is an integral part of participating in a sport that you otherwise wouldn't be able. E-sports isn't far off enjoying this kind of acceptance and when push comes to shove, we should only ask - what category will we be slotted into - legitimate sports or frivolous novelty?