Over the past few years, esports and gaming has continued to grow as a market force, garnering respect from sectors that previously considered the industry as more of a niche interest than anything else. Still, despite having a large impact on a number of related industries, gaming and esports has yet to draw the attention of most state and federal governments on a regulatory level. That may be about to change. Nevada recently decided to pursue the idea of creating regulations that would oversee esports competitions in the state, potentially setting a precedent for other states to follow their lead.
In an article from the National Law Review, attorney Ethan R. Aronson reports that on March 17, a bill was introduced before the Nevada Senate Judiciary. Senate Bill 165 would begin the process of creating an official commission specifically dedicated to overseeing esports events in Nevada. As Aronson puts it, “the proposed commission would be tasked with creating regulations overseeing esports competitions within the state.” By doing so, Nevada has broken new ground in respect to the regulating esports competitions as “such a move is the first of its kind in the US.”
We’ve previously written about legislation in Puerto Rico that expanded existing laws so as to legalize betting on esports. Although Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S., the fact that it’s not a state and that the legislation has more to do specifically with betting on esports than broader oversight make this proposed commission a markedly different example in terms of esports regulation. Details for Nevada’s proposed commission are still forthcoming, but early versions of the bill would require the commission to consist of three people.
Aronson reports that the commission “would promulgate regulations in areas such as integrity of competition, testing for controlled substances, qualifications for those hosting and participating tournaments, and approval of venues hosting competitions.” One thing that the legislation has in common between both Puerto Rico and Nevada is the impulse to seize the opportunity for growth that gaming and esports presents. The senator who sponsored the bill in Nevada, Ben Kieckhefer, had previously done an interview with the Esports Observer wherein he “indicated that he views esports as a significant growth opportunity for Nevada.”
As is often the case when it comes to esports and gaming, inspiration is taken from the world of the traditional sports and entertainment industries. Although the esports and gaming industry is still new territory in terms of legislation, the bill itself is modelled off of Senate Bill 165, which led to the founding of “Nevada’s Athletic Commission, which successfully helped bring mixed martial arts to Nevada while the sport was still in its infancy.” However, one thing that makes esports and gaming different than traditional sports is the lack of an official governing body.
Unlike the NBA, NFL, or MLB—to name a few examples—there is no one official league enforcing standards for all of esports. Esports comprises so many different games, tournaments, types of events, and more, the prospect of some sort of unifying governing body is more than appealing to risk averse investors. As Aronson puts it, “creating a commission backed by the force of law to specifically oversee esports may provide some comfort to certain industry stakeholders who have expressed the concern regarding competitive integrity of the sport.”
Nevada, home to Las Vegas, is arguably the gambling capital of the U.S.. As such, it should come as no surprise that although the proposed commission isn’t directly related to regulating esports gambling, there is a clear connection. By creating oversight for esports, the commission would—as Aronson reports—help to ensure the “competitive integrity [that] allows for sports books[,] which may have been hesitant to move into esports[,] to expand their offerings with the knowledge that the outcomes are equitable.”
At this point in time, Senate Bill 165 still has a ways to go before becoming a law. However, now that the legislative ball has begun rolling and the revenue that esports and gaming would potentially inject into the state’s economy has been recognized, it seems like it may well only be a matter of time. If and when that time comes, a roadmap will have been made for other states to follow.