Gambling Commission publishes discussion paper on eSports and virtual currencies

By Tom Lewis
The Gambling Commission (GC) has published a discussion paper outlining its concerns on virtual currencies, eSports and social gaming.

The GC’s assessment that the lines between “some social gaming products and gambling are blurring”, and that “technological developments and the expansion of digital or virtual currencies mean that operators of some social gaming products may be offering facilities for gambling”, comes amid a surge in coverage and controversy surrounding skin betting.

Neil McArthur, General Counsel at the GC, said: “We are concerned about virtual currencies and ‘in-game’ items, which can be used to gamble.

“We are also concerned that not everyone understands that players do not need to stake or risk anything before offering facilities for gaming will need to be licensed.

“Any operator wishing to offer facilities for gambling, including gambling using virtual currencies, to consumers in Great Britain, must hold an operating licence.

“Any operator who is offering unlicensed gambling must stop – or face the consequences.”

The GC also confirmed that it views betting on eSports no differently to any other event on which bets can be placed, stating that it “expects operators offering markets on eSports to manage the risks, including the risk that children and young people may try to bet on such events given the popularity of eSports with children and young people”.

In addition, McArthur made clear that the GC’s view on social gaming has not changed significantly since the publication of its social gaming paper in January 2015, but that “if we discover that items such as additional spins, credits or tokens or even loyalty points are tradeable, then we will be taking a keen interest”.

Comments on the paper are being sought through to the end of September, and the GC plans to issue a more definitive position paper before the end of 2016.

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