The Dota 2 sponsorship scene is going to look quite a bit different in 2019 if Valve has anything to say about it.
According to multiple reports, during a pre-event meeting with teams the publisher discouraged organizations participating at The International 2018 from accepting sponsorships from betting sites.
Though Valve did not outright ban betting site sponsorships, this is a massive shakeup for the Dota 2 scene.
Over recent years, Valve has largely taken a laissez-faire approach to the professional scenes for its games. This has allowed various companies to grow in the Counter-Strike and Dota 2 spheres, with one of the biggest beneficiaries being betting outlets who have been able to expand into the esports market with great success.
Teams have also reaped rewards from surge in activity, as betting sites have become some of the most reliable sponsors in the industry.
That said, as esports grows in size and visibility it may reflect poorly on the game to have betting outlets so closely tied to competing teams. Traditional sports leagues have almost completely forced gambling to the fringes for fear of undermining the legitimacy of the game. With esports already having a history of match fixing scandals across multiple titles, maintaining a clean image is important to maintain the industry’s growth.
That puts teams in a very difficult position. The instability of the Dota 2 scene has forced many sponsors out. Betting sites are one of the few that have stuck around and many smaller teams rely upon them for funding.
It’s worth noting that Valve didn’t outright forbid teams from taking on betting sites as sponsors, nor did it put forward any sort of timetable for phasing them out.