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SiGMA Eurasia Awards: GR8 Technology Shortlisted in 3 Categories

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The CIS has been a hotbed of esports for many years, and top teams and players have all called it home. What has changed in the past few years? Are there any trends that you’ve noticed?

In 2008, Esports exploded in the CIS when Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games (MOBAs) became very popular. Esports were around as early as 2003 but the popularity of Counter-Strike, DOTA2, and other games was the catalyst that propelled the industry to its current growth trajectory. The infrastructure required to support esports in the CIS has drastically improved in recent years. This includes the construction of Pixel Esports Arenas in Minks and Almaty in Kazakhstan. Both of these arenas host top-flight competitions. Internet connectivity is also better, and sponsors like Red Bull, War Gaming, and Monster Energy have helped to raise funds and awareness. This has led to a flourishing industry that offers many opportunities for growth.

In the area of trends and esports, I was surprised at how many people wanted to bet on console games – we call these eBattles, which include disciplines like eSoccer or eBasketball. This is a very natural progression that is based on the demand for video games, as they are often the link between traditional sports like football and esports.

Which factors contributed to the growth of eSports in the CIS during the last few years?

The fact that the teams are more professionally run and train and play in clubs with a professional atmosphere is a major factor for me. The games are played in rooms and buildings that have been equipped with the best equipment and high-speed Internet. The salaries of the players have increased, raising the level of competition in the entire region. Many CIS players are now playing for top-ranked teams like Virtus.pro or Team Spirit. They also play on international stages with Betboom and NaVi. The CIS is a region that has seen esports growth.

Can you tell us about the differences in regulation between the countries of the CIS when it comes betting on esports. How does PandaScore manage these changes?

Legality of betting on sports and esports varies from one country to another within the CIS. Others are more liberal, and regulate the gambling activity, and license operators. Some countries have a stricter approach or prohibit it altogether. Take a look and see how some of the largest markets are approaching gambling.

Since 2018, esports is recognized as a legitimate sport in Ukraine. In 2020, the country will regulate and license gambling for the very first time. This law is focused on sports betting and gambling, but it is also likely to include esports wagering as esports has been recognised in Ukraine since 2018. Tier-one Ukraine Sportsbooks such as Favbet or Parimatch offer esports to their customers.

Kazakhstan’s gambling industry is growing, with casinos and betting shops operating in cities like Almaty and Nur-Sultan. The Ministry of Culture and Sports regulates gambling. While the framework for regulation is restrictive, sports bets – including esports – are allowed.

It can be difficult to navigate the changes that occur in the betting regulations across the CIS. We keep abreast of the most recent developments, by keeping track of legislative updates and regulatory amendments. In order to predict regulatory changes, we also monitor industry trends and the best practices. This allows us to quickly adapt if necessary. It can include benchmarking with competitors, attending conference and networking.

Do you think that the CIS has unique potential for esports, esports betting and esports expansion? How does it compare to other areas?

Understanding that CIS countries, including Ukraine and Kazakhstan in particular, have their own set of rules is important. They are different from other esports market, and so you can’t assume that what worked in Italy would work in Ukraine. In Europe, League of Legends has a huge following, but in CIS Dota 2 is the most popular game. There are many opportunities for players who understand each region.

Let me elaborate. Dota 2 has been a huge success in CIS. Regular tournaments and other events attract large audiences, both online and offline. Teams like Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro, and Team Spirit are achieving significant success in Dota 2 tournaments. This has contributed to the popularity of the game in the region. Dota 2 has a lot of fans, but other games like CS2, World of Tanks, and Fortnite are also popular.

This is something operators need to take into account when they decide on their odds and markets, as well as marketing plans and player engagement strategies.

How would you describe the secret to creating a successful eSports product for a CIS market?

Understand layer preferences for each market, and deliver an experience which exceeds expectations. Dota 2 is the game of choice for the CIS. It offers a deep, strategic gameplay that requires teamwork, communication, and skillful execution. The competitive aspect of the game appeals to players who enjoy multiplayer challenges. This goes all the way back to 2008’s original MOBAs. This must be reflected in any esports betting service that is offered. At PandaScore this includes a Dota 2 betting market which covers Kills Towers Roshans Barracks. Players can compete against each other in betting competitions.

The quality of the player’s experience is also dependent on support. Our 24/7 support and regular updates improve players’ experience when they bet on esports using data, odds and other betting tools like our Bet Builder. Our team is always striving to increase our coverage of the most popular games, including CS2, Valorant and Call of Duty.

Which trends or developments will you predict will shape the future growth in esports for the CIS Region over the next several years?

This industry will grow, and it will become increasingly professional. It is still not recognized in certain markets as a traditional sport, despite the fact that it has become an official sport across CIS countries. As esports grows, I believe more and more governments will support it, as it has tremendous social, economic, and cultural benefits. It could be funding for esports projects, implementing regulatory frameworks or fostering partnerships with organisations involved in esports.

Continued proliferation of smartphones in the region is a catalyst for growth. Titles like PUGB Mobile and Mobile Legends Bang Bang are sure to attract big audiences, and offer new possibilities for players, teams, sponsors, and stakeholders. PandaScore, a leading esports betting company in the CIS area, is excited to be able to participate.

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