William Hill USA Is First Bookmaker to Offer Legal eSports Betting in the United States
William Hill USA is the first legal sportsbook in the United States to offer eSports betting. William Hill announced on Friday it would partner with the Downtown Grand Casino to accept wagers on electronic sports, which is the official name for competitive gaming on console, particularly video games.
The first legal eSports event at the William Hill’s Nevada sportsbooks was the IEM Oakland eSports event for League of Legends this past weekend. The event took place at the Oracle Arena and involved seperate tournaments for League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Oakland League of Legends Event
Unicorns of Love, a top European team, won the League of Legends event and collected $50,000 in prize money. Gamblers in Las Vegas and Reno were able to gamble on the outcome of the event, which included other top teams like Flashwolves, Team SoloMid, Longzhu Gaming, INTZ e-Sports, and The Chiefs eSports Club.
Gov. Sandoval Approved eSports
William Hill and the Downtown Grand Casino announced their partnership days after a decision to legalize eSports betting in the state was announced by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration. Gov. Sandoval met with the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee recently, then announced he would allow bets on the popular new form of competitive gaming.
At the time, Gov. Sandoval released a statement on his decision, saying he wanted Nevada to become a leader in eSports gaming.
The statement said, “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 an determination.”
Esports Gambling in Nevada
Rival Las Vegas Strip sportsbooks are likely to follow suit. Casino operators in the state are seeking ways to drive millennial gamblers to their casinos. Casinos sought a skill-based slot machine law in 2015 as a way to raise interest from the millennial generation. The Las Vegas Sands Corp added electronic table games to their gaming floors, hoping to draw the younger generation to their resorts.
While those methods might work, nothing is likely to drive under-35 customers the way eSports betting might. Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and the Chairman of the Downtown Grand, is one of the purveyors of eSports gaming in Nevada. Last year, Downtown Grand installed eSports gaming machines on their floor. Since then, Fifth Street has worked with Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett to facilitate eSports gaming in the state.
Seth Schorr on Esports Betting
The partnership with William Hill US is therefore the culmination of months of pre-planning. Seth Schorr noted, “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. This has been an excellent example of a public/private partnership working together to create a new innovative way of gambling which will have a positive impact on State revenues.”
“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.”
Downtown Casino eSports Watching Parties
The Downtown Grand had a watching party for the League of Legends event this past weekend. The sportsbook also allowed betting for those in attendance, assigning the following odds to each of the six teams which participated: Team SoloMid (+110), Longzhu (+160), Flash Wolves (4/1), Unicorns of Love (10/1), INTZ e-Sports (60/1), and The Chiefs Esports (100/1). As readers can see, a team with the 4th-best odds won the LoL tournament, so eSports gambling is just as difficult to master as traditional sports betting.
Where eSports Betting Is Legal
William Hill’s participation means that the gaming possibilities are widespread. William Hill USA owns 108 land-based sportsbooks throughout the state of Nevada. The world famous UK-based bookmaker also has a gaming app for smartphones and tablet computers, so those wanting to bet on eSports can do so on their Android and iOS devices.
Restrictions apply, of course. To bet on eSports with a smartphone, gamblers have to be inside the state of Nevada. Interstate eSports betting is subject to the same federal sports betting laws that gambling on the NFL, NBA, and MLB has. The 1961 Wire Act and 2006 UIGEA bans sports betting in 46 US states, while restricting gambling to sports lotteries in Montana, Oregon, and Delaware. Therefore, full sports betting (and eSports) is legal only in the state of Nevada.