For the first time, bettors in Nevada can place wagers on the outcome of video and computer game tournaments – collectively known as eSports.
The service was made available on Friday, November 18th through the William Hill-operated sportsbook located within the Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas.
The first slate of eSports wagers made available by the British-based William Hill covered the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tournament series in Oakland, held over the following weekend at Oracle Arena. Bettors at the Downtown Grand were able to choose between any of the six teams participating in the IEM Oakland’s two-day League of Legends (LoL) tournament.
The odds offered made Team SoloMid (+110) the clear favorite ahead of the weekend tournament, followed by Longzhu (+160), Flash Wolves (4/1), Unicorns of Love (10/1), INTZ e-Sports (60/1), and The Chiefs Esports (100/1).
Additionally, wagers could be placed on a pair of Saturday LoL quarterfinal matches, with INTZ e-Sports (+180) a slight underdog to Unicorns of Love (-220), and Longzhu (-1100) the heavy favorite over The Chiefs Esports (+700).
In the end, Unicorns of Love overcame steep 10 to 1 odds against and defeated the favored Flash Wolves in a thrilling best-of-five finals.
The eSports industry includes full-fledged leagues like IEM, fielding teams of professional players who compete in tournaments involving popular video games, such as the multiplayer battle LoL and the military combat simulation Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
The addition of eSports to Nevada’s sports betting landscape was smoothed by regulatory approval from the state’s Gaming Control Board (NGCB). The Chairman of the NGCB, A.G. Burnett, approved the licensing application submitted by William Hill and Fifth Street Gaming, operator of the Downtown Grand, under the provisions of Regulation 22.
Specifically, Burnett found that regulatory exemption (22.120(f)) allows wagers on non-sporting events, including the winner of the Heisman Trophy and other awards. As such, eSports was approved by classifying events as falling under the “non-sporting” variety.
Nevada’s governor Brian Sandoval took an active role in making the state a pioneer within the field of eSports betting, and he issued a statement celebrating the licensing approval:
“This announcement is a major step toward ensuring Nevada becomes the e-sports capital of the world. By embracing this unique opportunity and incorporating innovation and technology into our gaming industry, we’re expanding the potential of one of our oldest industries.
Representatives from William Hill and Downtown Grand have been active partners with the Gaming Policy Committee as we examined e-sports wagering in the State of Nevada. I would like to congratulate them on this approval and commend both companies for their swift work and determination.”
Seth Schorr, who serves as Chief Executive Officer for Fifth Street Gaming and Chairman of the Downtown Grand Casino, echoed Governor Sandoval’s sentiments in his own statement:
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work closely with Chairman Burnett and the Governor’s Gaming Policy Committee to gain collective support for wagering on eSports.
We are proud that the Downtown Grand will be the home to the first regulated eSports wager in America. The team at the Downtown Grand has worked hard to establish itself as a truly unique eSports destination.”
William Hill and the Downtown Grand are already planning for the next major eSports tournament on the calendar, the Major League Gaming eSports Festival, held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas December 16th-18th.