Overwatch League and Call of Duty League Tap Sportradar to Monitor Match Fixing
The Overwatch League and Call of Duty Leagues were recently approved for gambling by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and with that approval, there’s now more reason than ever before for the integrity of the competition to be upheld. That’s why Activision Blizzard has partnered with Sportradar, one of the world’s leading sports betting integrity firms, to ensure that things are on the up and up.
What Will Sportradar Do for Activision Blizzard?
Under the terms of the deal, Sportradar will “monitor global betting activity related to domestic and international Overwatch League and Call of Duty League competitions” and will “report any potential integrity issues to the company to help safeguard the integrity of the competitions.” This means that outside entities like the Esports Integrity Coalition, which tends to be viewed with at least some regard in other esports like CS:GO, will not be used for this purpose.
“Call of Duty League and Overwatch League have long taken steps to safeguard the integrity of matches, and working with Sportradar is a step to further reinforce the importance of fair play,” said Jason Hahn, Head of Strategic Initiatives at Activision Blizzard Esports. “As our esports activities continue to grow and as fans increasingly engage with wagering on matches, we need to ensure we are doing as much as we can to proactively protect our ecosystem. Working with Sportradar, an industry leader, is important in protecting our players, teams and matches and giving fans the best experience they deserve. We look forward to establishing this relationship with Sportradar and continued expansion of our work together.”
Sportradar will also give league access to its specialized Intelligence and Investigation Services unit. According to the Sportradar website, this unit offers intelligence and investigation solutions to sporting federations, law enforcement, government agencies, clubs, anti-doping organizations and the gaming industry. They do this through a number of covert surveillance methods, interviewing sources, monitoring persons of interest, and more.
“Integrity is a crucial component to the overall success of esports, especially in a time with more betting opportunities available and more tournaments taking place,” said Head of Integrity Services and League Relations, North America at Sportradar Andy Cunningham. “We look forward to working with The Overwatch League and Call of Duty League to fortify their already powerful integrity measures.”
The company will utilize its Fraud Detection System (FDS), which monitors odds from over 600 betting operators worldwide, and reviews unusual betting patterns. They’ll then notify the leagues if anything fishy is going on and use their network to help in the investigation.
Esports Betting on the Rise as Sports Betting Stalls
In the wake of the coronavirus, many sporting events have had to outright cancel their seasons. That hasn’t been the case for esports, even despite some disruption to season schedules, as a majority of the leagues have been able to play online. This has led to a rapid series of approvals by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, among others, to offer betting on events like League of Legends, Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, CS:GO events, and more.
This is largely being done so that casinos like William Hill are still able to offer wagerers something to bet on during the pandemic that resembles traditional sports. Previous to this, they were offering wagers on some truly oddball events that are still running, like the KHL Russian Hockey League, and others.
Why Overwatch League and Call of Duty League Need Betting
Both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty Leagues, some of the most expensive franchises to buy into, are in a tough spot. Both leagues have been forced on to YouTube Gaming due to business arrangements made by Activision Blizzard, a platform that traditionally has struggled to attract live viewers due to an extremely poor interface and native viewership for live matches. Many leagues, including ECS and others, have attempted to make YouTube Gaming home in the past only to abandon it in favor of Twitch, as per community sentiment.
Short of in-game cosmetics, esports fans, and especially the non-gaming public who might be interested in betting on these matches, could prove to be a powerful motivator to draw viewership overall. Betting on matches could also prove beneficial for giving games more meaning, especially if industries like Daily Fantasy Sports get involved. Then a given player’s performance on let’s say the 20th place Boston Uprising take on the 19th place Washington Justice might actually matter a bit more.
Of course, with tournaments being the norm in Call of Duty League, something Overwatch League is now trying to emulate with the May tournament, this feeling of matches not mattering as much could become a thing of the past on its own. However, with betting added too, the tournaments could end up being more impactful depending on the markets offered, such as winners of individual events rather than just individual matches.