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P1.2 Million Dota 2 Gambling Match Reveals Gaps in PH eSports Industry

01:57 PM December 10, 2015

NOT ENOUGH EVENTS. Although the Philippine eSports industry in 2015 made leaps and bounds, the tournament structure in the country is still inadequate. More avenues for competitive players are needed, particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.


 

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Despite gains in the eSports industry in the Philippines for 2015, illegal gambling remains a prevalent and, at times, divisive issue for the competitive gaming community.

A recently reported P1.2 million bet game between Cebu and Davao teams — the highest reported sum for a gambling match of Dota 2 — ended in bitterness after the Davao organizers allegedly failed to honor the terms of payment.

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BACKSTORY: Dota 2 match with P1.2 million bet ends in bitterness

Because of the top-heavy nature of competitive computer games such as Dota 2, teams who join international and local tournaments often face a binary choice: win the tournament and the cash prize or lose and win nothing.

The pressure to perform well in international tilts, coupled with bad internet infrastructure, gave birth to the “Dayo” culture: a culture where a team challenges another, often in other cities, in high-stakes money bet games. Teams decide on a set number of matches, a time, a place and a monetary figure. Winner takes all.

These matches are often arranged almost virally: a team who does well in one region catches the attention of another team in a different area. They find a way to network and then they setup a date and number for the money to be put on the line — all of it sealed by honor code.

DISBANDED. Team MSI-evoGT disbanded in 2014 after players from the team admitted to match-fixing allegations.

DISBANDED. Team MSI-evoGT disbanded in 2014 after players from the team admitted to match-fixing allegations.

In sum, the gambling problem of Philippine Dota 2 is essentially an economic problem. While players yearn to make competitive computer games into full-blown profession, the infrastructure in the country cannot support them yet. This forces young, hungry competitors to turn to illegal gambling to leverage their skills into buying power.

By contrast, professional eSports athletes in China, Korea and Europe have turned playing videogames into lucrative careers, with players paid by the millions in salaries and sponsorship deals to compete for teams in high-profile events.

Popular tournament organizers such as Mineski, who sponsors local tournaments in Manila and Luzon, have contributed greatly to reducing these essentially illegal gambling matches north of the Philippines. In Visayas and Mindanao, however, bet games continue to be popular among teams.

“This happened because of the lack of tournament platforms in Visayas and Mindanao,” Irymarc Gutierrez, executive director of the Philippine eSports Organization, said. “Gamers are very competitive and they want to have a place where they can test their skills and play against the best in the country but lately the local scene for the amateur players especially in VisMin are non-existent.”

“I think it’s up to us and other private eSports organizations to provide the gamers there platforms to compete in order to avoid things like this.”

But more than intervention in the form of tournament support, Gutierrez says that eSports organizations have a duty to regulate and educate their constituents to turn away from illegal betting.

“Teams, organizers and everyone in the eSports industry need to address the problem of illegal gambling before the complications undo the work we’ve done to advance the industry,” he said.

And the complications have indeed been felt. In 2014, various teams from around the Southeast Asian region, including teams from the Philippines, were found to be involved in a match-fixing scandal. Certain players from different teams would intentionally lose games in order to profit from bets that they have made against their own teams.

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The issue led to the total disbandment of the MSI-EvoGT team from the Philippines, Arrow Gaming in Malaysia and the removal of key players from Mineski.

Illegal gambling also led to the creation of the Philippine eSports Association (PeSPA), a local body made up of teams, events organizers and players to help set ground rules and regulate the conduct of individuals and organizations inside the Philippine eSports industry.

THE CREATION OF PESPA. The Philippine eSports Association (PeSPA) was created to guide the growth of the eSports industry in the Philippines. Among its members are local team organizations, events organizers and game publishers. The various figureheads in the local scene were brought together by its honorary member, Senator Benigno Paolo "Bam" Aquino. (Photo by PeSPA).

THE CREATION OF PESPA. The Philippine eSports Association (PeSPA) was created to guide the growth of the eSports industry in the Philippines. Among its members are local team organizations, events organizers and game publishers. The various figureheads in the local scene were brought together by its honorary member, Senator Benigno Paolo “Bam” Aquino. (Photo by PeSPA).

Apart from teams disbanding and tournament integrities being affected, bet games are also at risk of involving minors who may be in over their heads, playing with hundreds and thousands of pesos in taya.

While projections for the global eSports industry are looking rosy — with the total size of the pie looming to over $18 billion by 2017 –locally, much needs to be done to address the culture of gambling and the risks it poses.

“Until we can properly educate players to understand that gambling and bet games do more harm than good, everyone in the eSports industry in the Philippines needs to have a serious discussion on how to create a sustainable infrastructure for the industry. We cannot afford not to,” Gutierrez said.

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