Sports betting has been controversial in America for years. It carries both the negative stigma associated with any type of gambling along with the potential for match fixing.
When esports rose in popularity in the late 2000s, it wasn’t long before gambling on esports followed suit.
Today, it seems there’s more controversy surrounding esports betting than there is regular sports gambling.
Sports wagering especially earned a bad name after the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919, when a group of players threw the World Series. Ever since, certain American sports leagues have been obsessed with barring sports betting.
In 1992, the federal government banned the activity with the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This ban lasted until May 2018, when the Supreme Court repealed PASPA.
Now, states are free to decide whether or not they want to legalize sports betting. Along with this, they can also choose to regulate esports gambling.
However, the latter is proving to be even more controversial than regular sports betting.
No Age Limits on Pros
The most controversial thing about esports from a gambling perspective is the age limit, or lack thereof. Many professional sports leagues impose some type of age requirement on the competitors.
The NFL, for example, requires that all players be at least three years removed from high school graduation. The NBA requires players to be 19 years old, although they’re currently in talks to lower the age limit to 18.
Sports leagues use these age requirements to ensure that competitors are physically and mentally mature enough to handle the grind.
They don’t want a bunch of young teenagers being overwhelmed by playing against mature athletes in their late 20s or early 30s.
Video gamers, however, don’t really need to worry about being physically mature enough to play. Some of the world’s top players for certain games are in their early teens. Additionally, gaming carries a different type of culture than pro sports.
Gamers are mostly outgoing or social on the internet.
In comparison to celebrity athletes, esports pros tend to maintain a lower profile outside of esports-related events. This environment allows young esports pros to better adapt, versus if they were to try playing in the NFL.
The fact that esports organizations don’t impose an age limit makes sense when considering the low-key culture.
However, it also causes problems when gambling is brought into the equation.
No state in America allows people to legally bet on high school athletes or younger. This moral and legal stance will probably never change no matter how progressive society becomes.
Esports betting presents a problem, because a small percentage of players are in high school or middle school. Most leagues merely require that these players are accompanied to matches by a legal guardian aged 21 or older.
The average pro gamer ranges between 21 and 25 years old, depending on the game. But there are enough young players involved to make the betting aspect controversial.
New Jersey Originally Banned Esports Due to Age Issues
New Jersey had been fighting for legal sports betting for years. They finally got their wish when PASPA was repealed in the spring of 2018.
The Garden State legalized sports betting shortly afterward. Interestingly enough, though, they left esports out of the equation.
Lawmakers cited the fact that some professionals are as young if not younger than 14.
Already tired from their fight with the government and sports leagues, New Jersey didn’t want to make any more waves by allowing betting on minors.
They later had a change of heart, though, after discussing the matter further.
The Garden State decided that esports betting would be allowed, so long as all competitors involved are at least 18.
How Will Other States Deal With Esports Gambling?
Legal sports betting is still a relatively new topic in the US. Some states have taken advantage of it, but the majority of the US is still mulling over legislation.
Sports gambling itself has already been a hot topic of discussion. Most states haven’t gotten into the particular details of esports.
Like New Jersey, Maine is another state that allows both sports and esports betting.
They didn’t include any stipulations either, such as New Jersey’s rule that all players must be 18.
How other states deal with video game gambling remains to be seen. Some will potentially include stipulations, while others might follow Maine’s lead and just legalize it regardless.
The Current Esports Betting Situation for Most States
The majority of the US features an unregulated betting market. Many states haven’t approved esports or sports wagering, yet they’re still served by offshore bookmakers.
As you may know, an offshore sportsbook is one that’s located outside of the countries it serves. Many offshore bookmakers operate out of the Caribbean and Central America.
These online sportsbooks aren’t typically approved in the countries where they offer betting.
However, they continue to provide their services regardless.
The average American doesn’t have a regulated gambling market to look forward to. Instead, they must deal with offshore betting sites.
These online sportsbooks aren’t inherently crooked. But their reputation has been damaged by a few bad apples.
Certain bookmakers have treated customers poorly, made slot payouts, or even failed to pay at all. Many of the same operations got away with their actions due to the fact that they’re not subject to American laws.
None of this is to say that you can’t find good offshore sites from the US. However, you need to spend more time vetting them when looking for the best esports betting sites so that you can deposit funds with confidence.
Will Esports Leagues Raise the Minimum Age?
Sports and gambling have plenty of synergy. Those who enjoy betting on sports are more likely to watch games to see how their wagers pan out.
Esports and betting no doubt have the same type of harmony. Gaming leagues and investors would no doubt like to see regulated gambling markets opened up to encourage this synergy.
After all, leagues and investors don’t make any money from the unregulated, offshore industry.
They can, however, benefit from the partnerships and advertising revenue associated with legal betting.
But the age barrier could prevent esports wagering from spreading throughout the US. Some states could simply decide not to approve video game gambling along with sports betting due to underage competitors.
That said, it’ll be interesting to see if some leagues consider raising the minimum age requirement to 18.
Such a move could legitimize the industry and make esports more acceptable as a legal form of gambling.
Looking at the other side, video gaming is unique in that it can support younger competitors. The esports culture is different than the average professional sport, thus allowing minors to fit in better.
Age Problems or Not, Esports Betting Is Coming
The esports industry shows absolutely no signs of slowing down in the near future. It’s been exploding over the past few years and draws 200 to 300 million streaming views every day.
Bookmakers have been unable to ignore this massive success. The same betting sites that once listed esports in the “other” section have now carved out dedicated categories for video gaming.
Sports gambling sites have also expanded the number of esports markets they cover.
These sites feature prominent games like League of Legends (LoL) and Dota 2. They also cover other esports, such as CS:GO and Super Smash Bros.
Esports betting is becoming legal in more states and countries as well. While not as common as traditional sports gambling, it’s still gaining acceptance throughout the world.
Sports betting has long dealt with a negative reputation. But attitudes have shifted in recent years, and more states are legalizing the activity.
Esports gambling appears to have its own separate climb, though. The young ages of certain competitors have raised concerns among lawmakers.
New Jersey was so worried about the matter that they originally banned esports betting. They eventually came around and approved it, provided all competitors in a match are 18 or older.
Whether or not other states follow suit remains to be seen.
Maine has approved esports wagering and sports betting, but not all states may be this friendly towards the former.
Chances are, though, that esports gambling will find acceptance throughout most of the US. However, it’s going to take time before such betting is available in more states.
In the meantime, American bettors will have to deal with offshore esportsbooks. These sites can be risky due to the lack of industry regulation. But it’s still possible to find quality offshore betting sites with enough due diligence.