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Group aims to improve esports betting in Nevada

An advisory committee on Tuesday took its first step toward moving Nevada further into the multimillion-dollar esports industry amid warning signs that it will have to protect the state from the dangers of match-fixing and other cheating.

The eight-member Esports Technical Advisory Committee, which will meet quarterly, held its inaugural session and heard from four experts on various aspects of esports — video-game competitions that have the potential to generate casino revenue if gamblers are allowed to bet on the outcome of the games and tournaments.

Nevada already has dipped its toe into the esports waters with the state Gaming Control Board allowing wagering on some competitions in 2020. Most of the competitions were authorized for betting at a time when most conventional sports leagues were shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Control Board allowed wagering on a handful of competitions in 2020, it hasn’t received a single request for betting on any esports competitions in 2021.

Committee Chairman Paul Hamilton said that he expects fact-finding and collecting data and information would continue into the group’s next meeting, but that eventually committee members will start making recommendations to the Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission.

“I think that’s going to take a little while, but I think the meetings probably start to evolve into commentary and discussion among the board on how do we move forward,” Hamilton said. “Do we agree with what we’re hearing and, if so, what does that actually mean? The ultimate goal is to get esports regulated and the ability to gamble on it safely.”

Hamilton wants Nevada to become the gold standard for regulating esports.

“I’ve been a Nevadan since I was 2 years old, and I’d like to see Las Vegas and Nevada where it is in everything else that is gaming related,” he said. “We should be at the top and doing it right and do things that make everyone proud. Most importantly, it’s for the consumer to feel safe and also for the facility (casino) to feel safe.”

One of the experts who addressed the committee explained the circumstances that need to be considered for players, gamblers and casinos to feel safe. It all centers on preventing cheating.

Ian Smith of the Esports Integrity Commission, a nonprofit association formed in 2015 that works to investigate and prevent all forms of cheating, said there are four basic ways people can cheat at esports: cheating to win using software, online attacks to slow or disable an opponent, match fixing and doping.

Smith’s organization has recommendations on how to combat cheating, including banning cheaters from future participation and getting players to join the integrity association. Stronger regulations and procedures can also improve the wagering landscape, he added.

Smith said cheaters are getting better at disguising their acts but competitors who feel they’ve been cheated are also the first to make complaints.

“The willingness to deliberately underperform — match or spot fixing to commit betting fraud – was poorly understood and only dealt with when exposed by third parties,” Smith said.

He said 92 percent of match-fixing is driven by betting fraud.

Esports competitions are global, and Smith said most of the complaints about match-fixing come against participants from China or Eastern Europe.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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