CS:GO gambling crackdown could affect semi-pro Dota 2 scene

With all the controversy surrounding gambling in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it’s interesting to take a look at how gambling takes place in the Dota 2 professional scene. Most fans of professional Dota likely know about scandals involving the likes of Alexei “Solo” Berezin, or the former Elite Wolves players, who threw games for money using these sites to collect. But semi-pro tournaments and sites like Dota 2 Lounge have a relationship less visible to those not involved behind the scenes.

For any semi-pro tournament unable to book higher level teams with larger fan bases, sites like D2L are a godsend. Having a tournament’s games listed on any betting site is an immediate boost to views. Just as an example, you’ve probably seen the waves of chat spam that occur whenever a team first reaches the 10-kill mark, a common high-risk betting option. From a tournament organizer’s perspective, it’s simple to add an admin or representative from one of these sites to a Skype group in order to make sure games are listed on betting sites before the games start. The return can be quite large, and the recent trend has been for betting sites to directly sponsor tournaments directly, cutting out the middle man. I don’t personally see a problem with such an arrangement so long as this information is properly disclosed to the viewer. Pushing soft-gambling sites to a target audience of teenagers, however, is morally ambiguous, despite Valve’s claims that skins and cosmetics don’t hold intrinsic monetary value.

Is this such a bad tradeoff to make? If smaller teams with fewer fans can’t earn the viewers necessary to justify a tournament running another season, perhaps betting sites can drive views instead. Without those eyeballs glued to screens, desperately waiting to see which team comes out on top, semi-professional tournaments might disappear completely without another source of revenue to sustain operations.

With Valve’s recent announcement that it would ask CSGO gambling and skin sites to cease operations, the question now becomes this: will unconnected, relatively sleaze-free sites like Dota 2 Lounge also be forced to close their doors? If this were to happen, the effect could be disastrous for the semi-pro tournament circuit, although nothing is certain. The worst case scenario is that these sites are forced to shut down, causing tournament organizers to follow suit after failing to garner even half of the views that they would before. The other possibility is that organizers might turn to actually shady means of increasing viewer counts. I try not to think about that one.

Betting sites have intimate connections to semi-professional tournaments, but there’s nothing overtly malicious taking place. In fact, the relationship is beneficial for both parties. If Valve’s new rules about item trading and the use of their API causes D2L to close its doors, it might negatively affect semi-pro tournament viewership and lead to an even more top-heavy distribution of money in the professional scene. Smaller teams rely on monthly tournaments with smaller prize pools to sustain their professional gaming careers. If unrelated scandals involving Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and a suit against Valve end up shutting down sites that actually benefit semi-professional Dota 2 tournaments, we could see a complete upending of the Dota 2 professional scene.

Dota 2 Lounge declined to give a statement about the future of the organization.

Cover photo by NIVIDIA/flickr

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