After months of debate and delay, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) is expected to grant final approval next week to several regulatory changes making it easier for sportsbooks to accept wagers on esports competitions.
“It has been a long time coming to make sure we created a regulatory environment where this industry can thrive and the integrity of esports wagers are protected. It’s not the easiest of work,” said Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) chair Brittnie Watkins.
The two-member control board unanimously voted last week to recommend approval of the regulatory amendments that would permit sportsbooks to decide whether to accept wagers on esports events instead of seeking board approval for each specific event in advance.
If approved by the four-member gaming commission on January 26, the regulations would take effect immediately.
Sportsbooks have been allowed to accept wagers on esports since 2016, but esports contests were so-called “other” events that required event-specific regulatory approval. Among the approvals given for esports betting to date have been for esports competitions such as CS:GO, ESL Pro League Season 11 and even eNASCAR events.
Regulations approved last Wednesday (January 11) by the control board are amendments to Regulation 22, which outlines the rules for traditional sports betting in the state.
The regulations would also make sportsbook managers responsible for monitoring and reporting betting irregularities to the control board. In addition, the regulations prohibit players, coaches, and agents of esports teams from placing bets, and sportsbooks will be required to monitor for potential match-fixing.
They will also be required to notify the control board on a quarterly basis of the operators for events on which they post odds and accept wagers.
The regulations were developed by the eight-member Esports Technical Advisory Committee, which hosted its first meeting in March and delivered the proposed amendments to the control board in October.
NGCB member Phil Katsaros said he believed the amendments struck a good balance between regulations and allowing the product to thrive.
“What I like about our approach of putting our best foot forward and allowing the market to build up and see where it can go and not constrain it so much from the outset and basically kill it out of the gate,” Katsaros said. “What we are doing here is enacting some responsible and sensible regulations.”
The regulations do not address the age of competitors, even though some esports teams have players that are younger than 21, or responsible gambling. The legal age to gamble is 21 in Nevada.
Katsaros urged control board staff to monitor what potential changes might be made dealing with the age of the participants in esports competitions and what might be the best approach from a responsible gambling perspective.
“So with a new product vertical like this, we are going to have different demographics, we are going to see different betting patterns,” he said. “We should be mindful of those differences and the need may be to adjust our responsible gaming measures as we move forward.”
Nevada Appoints New Board Chairman
At the conclusion of last week’s control board meeting, Katsaros said it would be his final meeting after being appointed in April 2019 by former Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat.
That was followed by Republican Governor Joe Lombardo naming Las Vegas attorney Kirk Hendrick as chairman of the control board. Hendrick, 58, will replace Watkins, who has been serving as chair since November.
Katsaros expressed his gratitude to his colleagues at the NGCB, saying the board had made a lot of consequential changes over the past four years, not including dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“In my view, things like that allow the industry to grow and thrive, all the while we maintain our high standards,” Katsaros said. “And that helps lift Nevada.”
The NGCB has been working with two of three board members since the departure of former chairman Brin Gibson, who resigned in November before his term expired on January 29.
Hendrick, who previously headed the Nevada attorney general’s gaming division in the late 1990s, is expected to begin his four-year term at the end of the month. He also served as chief legal officer for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Watkins has two years left in her term on the control board. The NGCB has 400 employees that regulate and enforce the state's gaming laws.
Lombardo also must fill the remaining vacant seat on the control board and an open seat on the commission that was vacated when Ben Kieckhefer left to serve as the new governor’s chief of staff.