The 2016 Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) took place at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, the home of NBA’s Golden State Warriors this weekend and saw two world firsts occur.
The IEM saw some of the best League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams from around the world compete for the title of champions. For the first time in the history of the IEM, the Counter-Strike finals were streamed in virtual reality and saw Team Ninjas in Pyjamas prevail against SK Gaming.
Another world first was British bookmaker William Hill accepting the first real-money bets on e-sports in the United States at its sportsbook at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino.
William Hill was given the green light by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to accept real-money wagers on various outcomes of the 2016 IEM tournament, with bettors able to place wagers on the outcome of the League of Legends tournament.
Team SoloMid (11:10) were the pre-tournament favorites with The Chiefs eSports Club (100:1) being the rank outsiders. Even so, it was Unicorns of Love who were crowned the League of Legends champions, defeating Flash Wolves in a tense best-of-five finale.
“This announcement is a major step toward ensuring Nevada becomes the e-sports capital of the world. By embracing this unique opportunity and incorporating innovation and technology into our gaming industry, we’re expanding the potential of one of our oldest industries," said Brian Sandoval, the governor of Nevada. "Representatives from William Hill and Downtown Grand have been active partners with the Gaming Policy Committee as we examined e-sports wagering in the State of Nevada. I would like to congratulate them on this approval and commend both companies for their swift work and determination.”
Joe Asher, the chief executive officer for William Hill’s U.S. operation, said this is all part of William Hill's effort to be on the forefront of change in the industry.
“We are excited to partner with Seth Schorr and the Downtown Grand to become the first sportsbook in America to offer legal wagering on e-sports," he said. "A lot of work has gone into bringing e-sports to the Nevada betting market and we thank the Governor and his Gaming Policy Committee, the Gaming Control Board and Seth for all of their efforts to keep Nevada at the forefront of the gaming industry. William Hill always tries to offer the most innovative and largest wagering menu and this reflects our commitment to innovation.”
William Hill has been a hot topic as of late with merger and takeover talks dominating the headlines. In August 2016, William Hill rejected a joint takeover bid by 888 Holdings and Rank Group plc, worth more than £3 billion, before being linked with a potential takeover bid for the owner of PokerStars, Amaya.
The gambling giant, which is now the second largest bookmaker in the United Kingdom (based on retail betting shops) after the merger of Ladbrokes and Gala Coral, recently announced its online division had returned to growth after a period of losses. Being the world first for betting on e-sports in the U.S. should help bolster those online trading figures.
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