“People who bet love that feeling. Tens of thousands of spectators cram into sports arenas to watch competitions live, and millions more do so online through services like Twitch. Last November in a New York Times opinion piece, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, reversed the league’s longtime opposition to sports gambling, arguing that illegal betting is widespread and should be legalized so it can be properly monitored and regulated.
Rahul Sood, chief executive of Unikrn.Credit Unikrn
SEATTLE — Competitive video-game playing, known as e-sports, has passed many milestones to mainstream acceptance. “The fact is it’s been around for years,” he said. On Tuesday, the company, Unikrn, will begin allowing players to wager real money on the outcomes of League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike and other m88 games being played as part of professional tournaments.
“For me, it’s a step to bring e-sports to the masses,” said Mr. Tabcorp has invested an undisclosed amount in Unikrn as part of the deal.
Similarly, e-sports betting is also going on in unregulated ways, said Mr. Tabcorp and Unikrn will add e-sports gambling to Tabcorp’s Luxbet mobile app, and Unikrn will offer it directly to the public through its own Web site, too. ESPN has even broadcast games competitions.
And now a new start-up plans to let e-sports fans gamble on the events.
Bettors in the United States will not be able to gamble on the e-sports matches; sports betting remains mostly illegal in the United States, with the exception of Nevada and a few other states. But gambling on traditional sports like soccer and basketball is widely legal in Europe, Asia and Australia, and that is where Unikrn will focus its activities for now.
“It brings a higher level of adrenalin to it,” he said. It makes it more fun, more engaging.”
E-sports has already found a large audience, mainly through online video-streaming service likes Twitch that broadcast tournaments and practice sessions. Sood predicts more people will become interested in it through gambling, which he said intensifies the experience of watching matches.. Mr. Sood, who downplays moral questions around making it a bigger part of the culture emerging around professional game-playing. Sood, who also co-founded VoodooPC, a maker of PCs for gamers that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard.
Rahul Sood, who founded Unikrn in Seattle, believes sports gambling will eventually be legalized in the United States, allowing him to serve customers there as well.
To navigate the thicket of regulations in the market, Unikrn has entered a partnership with Tabcorp, an Australian publicly-traded company in the wagering business with permission to operate in many markets around the globe. “It’s a matter of educating people about how to enjoy it responsibly.”
While the United States remains off limits to the company for now, some professional sports leagues are showing signs of acceptance
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