E-Sports – Welcome to the Grey Zone








Corona changes everything. And like many others, the market for e-sports also has not escaped the COVID-yoke. There are, however, several reasons why e-sports will become even more the focus of attention in the future and may even emerge stronger from this crisis.

Sports events are still largely on hold. The Bundesliga is taking a break, there are no tennis tournaments, and no bicycle races. Attention is focused on e-sports, which are becoming increasingly relevant – for all market participants, and thus also for the legislator. One example of this is the betting industry. Without sporting events there can be no sports betting. It is true that the Belarusian football league is defying the general Corona game-stop. But until ‘ghost games’ with empty stadiums are launched, sports betting providers continue to record significant losses. Betting on e-sports, in particular professionally staged competitions of video games such as FIFA, League of Legends or CS:GO, are gaining momentum. Numerous football clubs and leagues organize e-sports competitions, e.g. a virtual Bundesliga. E-sports have millions of fans worldwide, and the trend is rising, making them increasingly interesting for the media and advertising industry.

In many places still no legal definition of sport

Although the name suggests otherwise, e-sports are not officially recognized as a sport in many countries, such as Austria or Germany, and are thus legally in a grey area. Do sports subsidies and tax advantages also apply to e-sports? Do bets on e-sports count as sports betting? There is no legal definition of the term “sport”.

Laws usually stipulate that sport requires physical activity. A certain amount of exertion and physical ability are certainly required also in e-sports. Professional e-sports athletes can achieve over 400 keystrokes per minute. The International Olympic Committee considers physical activity in professional e-sports to be comparable to that in classic sports. Nevertheless, it is premature to discuss e-sports as an Olympic discipline. Since 2018, the German coalition pact states that e-sports should be recognized as a sport. And yet little has changed so far.

With increasing importance in the market, the pressure is also increasing

With increasing awareness and acceptance, e-sports is not only a mass phenomenon but also an economic factor. This not only increases its relevance in the market, but also the pressure on politicians and law-makers to take a closer look at e-sports and either integrate them into an existing legal structure or to regulate them separately.

We are here to help you structure your e-sports projects with legal certainty, be it in the current grey area or in the regulated future! With our international expertise in regulatory advice on gaming, betting & entertainment, we are your reliable contact for e-sports legal questions! – Nicholas Aquilina