Starting an E-Sports Business in Singapore: 6 Things To Note

Last updated on May 2, 2024

e-sports players playing games

What is E-Sports, and What are the Types of Businesses in the Industry?

E-sports, short for electronic sports, is a form of organised video game competition amongst professional players and teams. It differs from traditional sports in that it primarily takes place virtually. It can range from mobile and computer games (e.g. Valorant, League of Legends, Dota), to simulated versions of physical sports (e.g. archery, baseball, chess).

The e-sports industry has been seeing some rapid growth and development in Singapore as well as globally. According to Dutch research firm Newzoo, the global e-sports audience is estimated to reach 640.8 million by the end of 2025. Southeast Asia’s e-sports market is expected to reach US$7.2 billion by 2027. Singapore, too, has a projected market volume of US$12.7 million by 2028.

Singapore has also gained a reputation as one of the region’s leading e-sports hubs by playing host to various competitions and events such as the inaugural Olympic E-sports Week in 2023. In 2022, Singapore was also the first country in Southeast Asia to host The International (one of the largest Dota 2 international gaming events).

With so many new opportunities for growth presenting itself, you may be considering starting an e-sports business. This may range from game development and publishing, competition and events organising, game broadcasting, and professional e-sports team management, to the selling of e-sports apparel and merchandising, e-sports coaching and training services, and e-sports streaming platforms. You may also be considering advertising and marketing opportunities within the e-sports industry with certain events and/or teams. These are but a few examples of business opportunities within the e-sports industry.

Each type of business will require a different legal business structure, and have its own set of legal considerations. They may even have their own set of legal requirements, licences or guidelines to follow. Here are some legal considerations you may wish to bear in mind if you want to set up an e-sports business in Singapore:

  1. Registering an e-sports business in Singapore
  2. Applicable laws, regulations and licences when setting up an e-sports business in Singapore
  3. Intellectual property considerations in an e-sports business in Singapore
  4. Personal data protection and tackling cybersecurity breaches in an e-sports business in Singapore
  5. Employment and human resources management in an e-sports business in Singapore
  6. Legality of betting, match-fixing and cheating in the e-sports industry in Singapore

1. Registering An E-sports Business in Singapore

You must register your e-sports business with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) before commencing operations. To register, you must also decide on your business structure.

Some of the more common business structures include:

  • Sole-proprietorship (i.e. the business is operated by a sole owner)
  • Partnership (i.e. there are multiple owners)
  • Company

Each business structure will have its own separate set of legal requirements. Which business model you adopt will depend greatly on your business’ specific circumstances. You should consider the costs (both initial and running) and liability protection of the various structures.

For instance, an e-sports commentator may wish to set up a sole-proprietorship since the business is largely conducted by himself and the initial set-up and running costs of a sole-proprietorship are lower. On the other hand, someone setting up an e-sports event organiser business (which is typically accompanied by larger financial risks and liabilities) may wish to incorporate a company so that the members of the company are not personally liable for any debts and losses of the company. They may also wish to incorporate a company if they are seeking further investments and funding from external sources as a company will allow investors to purchase shares in the business.

To understand more about the various business structures and their relevant legal requirements, you can refer to our other article on A Guide to Starting a Business in Singapore.

Nonetheless, do note that you may opt to change your business structure in the future if you find that your initial choice does not fit your business needs (e.g. changing from a partnership to a company). The main downside is that it may be more cumbersome and costly to convert the business structure at a later time compared to the cost of setting up the business in the appropriate form from the start.

If you would like more guidance on the appropriate legal structure for your business, do consider reaching out to a corporate lawyer who would be able to better advise you.

2. Applicable Laws, Regulations and Licences When Setting Up an E-sports Business in Singapore

If you are setting up an e-sports business in Singapore, you should also be aware of the relevant regulatory bodies, laws and regulations that may apply to your business.

Broadly speaking, e-sports businesses in Singapore are regulated by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) as well as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

IMDA regulates the industry in relation to the technology and media aspects. For example, video game distributors, broadcasting/streaming businesses and online commentators may fall under certain class licences set out by the IMDA and will have to comply with the relevant regulations. For instance, video game distributors must ensure that the video games have been classified by IMDA before distribution, and must ensure that only video games that are deemed appropriate by IMDA are distributed. IMDA would also regulate the usage of personal data and cybersecurity matters.

If you are unsure whether your business requires any licences or which guidelines are applicable, you may wish to contact a technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) lawyer for further advice.

MCCY is responsible for formulating policies related to sports development in Singapore. They provide funding and support for sports programmes and work closely with various stakeholders on developing sports and athletes on a national level. They also collaborate with various organisations to organise sports events and competitions.

The Singapore E-sports Association (SGEA) is the national sports association that governs e-sports in Singapore and operates under the oversight of Sport Singapore (SportsSG). SportsSG is a statutory board set up by the MCCY to oversee all sports and national sports associations in Singapore. They are likely to be involved in events planning and also the management and conduct of e-sports players.

If you are keen on hosting e-sports events in Singapore, you can work together with SportsSG and the MCCY to bring such events into Singapore. They provide a variety of support schemes (such as the S$165 million Major Sports Event Fund 2024).

In addition to the above, e-sports event organisers should be mindful that they may require certain permits or licences to host their events (such as the public entertainment ad-hoc licence). They are likely required to comply with regulations concerning events, safety, public entertainment, and advertising.

3. Intellectual Property Considerations in an E-sports Business in Singapore

Given the virtual nature of the e-sports industry, it is no surprise that the management of intellectual property legal issues is pertinent in an e-sports business.

If you are a game developer and publisher, you must ensure that you have clear intellectual property rights as well as the right to distribute the product. You would also want to protect your intellectual property from unauthorised usage and distribution. This would extend to ensuring that you have the correct rights to all relevant computer codes in the games (whether they are developed internally by your employees or are from external sources).

If you are an events organiser or a sponsor, it would be important to consider any copyright and trademark matters for advertising material at events. As a merchandiser, you would also need to ensure that you have the relevant copyright or trademark rights to manufacture and sell your merchandise. Likewise, e-sports teams and event organisers should ensure that their logos and such identifying materials are afforded the correct intellectual property protection so that they can be monetised.

For e-sports content creators and commentators, you may wish to familiarise yourself with the applicable copyright laws and how they would apply to your content.

4. Personal Data Protection and Tackling Cybersecurity Breaches in an E-sports Business in Singapore

If your business involves the collection and use of personal data, your business will be subject to Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

In the e-sports industry, this would impact e-sports game developers who collect the personal data of players, and e-sports event organisers who collect the personal data of event attendees. This may also impact any sponsorship or advertising arrangements that require direct marketing to attendees (e.g. sending of marketing material to event attendees’ email addresses). You must ensure that your business correctly collects, uses, stores and deletes such personal data.

For more information on PDPA compliance, you may refer to our guide on Essential PDPA Compliance Guide for Singapore Businesses.

Given a surge of various cybersecurity breaches (e.g. hacking, denial of service attacks, malware, etc), your business should ensure that you are adequately protected against such threats. For example, in 2024, during the Apex Legends Global Series which had a total prize pool of USD 5 million, two of their players were hacked mid-game during a live stream. As a result, the organisers had to suspend and postpone the tournament. This likely impacted many of the organiser’s contractual obligations (such as any marketing and advertising deals) and had financial repercussions.

5. Employment and Human Resources Management in an E-sports Business in Singapore

As with any business, managing human resources will be key. You should carefully consider your contracts with your employees (such as e-sports players or game developers) to ensure that all relevant business interests are well protected (e.g. setting out any necessary restrictions or obligations, ensuring that all intellectual property rights vest in the company, etc).

Further, well-drafted contracts that clearly set out the perimeters of the business relationship with the various employees will reduce the risk of disputes and misunderstandings from arising in the future. Additionally, you will need to ensure that you are compliant with all relevant employment laws in Singapore, and that you are in compliance with any other applicable regulations (e.g. any requirements from MCCY that may apply to sports players in Singapore).

If you are managing an e-sports team, you will also have a legitimate interest in ensuring that you do not lose any key assets (i.e. players) and that your players comply with certain obligations (e.g. complying with authorities and sponsor’s requirements, do not carry out any illegal activity, no doping, etc).

You may refer to our Guide to E-sports Player Contracts for more information.

6. Legality of Betting, Match-Fixing and Cheating in the E-sports Industry in Singapore

As with any sporting event, e-sports has also seen a rise in the practice of betting. There are many websites that offer e-sports betting.

However, this is illegal. The National Council for Problem Gambling has explicitly stated that e-sports betting is illegal in Singapore. Under the Gambling Control Act 2022, gambling, whether physically or virtually, is prohibited unless licensed or exempted. As of date, e-sports betting has not been issued any licences.

Unfortunately, this has not stemmed the growth of e-sports betting. Instead, it has been accompanied by instances of match-fixing (i.e. a player or a team will bet against their own team and deliberately throw a match in exchange for financial gain).

In 2020, a Singapore e-sports player betted against his own team on an illegal e-sports betting platform, and deliberately threw the match. When it was discovered, he was issued a ban from the gaming platform, He was also charged with corruption and was given 4 months jail and ordered to pay a penalty of S$400. His accomplice (who funded the bet) was sentenced to reformative training for a minimum of 6 months. 

Instances of cheating and accusations of cheating have also plagued the Singapore e-sports industry. At the 2023 Southeast Asian Games, there was an accusation by the Indonesian team that the Singapore team used a game bug to cheat.

Businesses should be mindful of the increased risks and liabilities of such illegal activities in the e-sports industry. Such illegal practices may result in legal sanctions or penalties that may also impact the reputation of the business and by extent, its business dealings. Professional team managers should be weary of such behaviour and should ensure that their legal contracts with players clearly prohibit such behaviour. Event organisers should be mindful of such activities being conducted during events, and may wish to appoint officials and overseers during the gaming events.

There is much to gain from the rise of the e-sports industry, but there are also many risks and liabilities that may pave the way. If you wish to set up an e-sports business in Singapore, it is beneficial to ensure that you have adopted a structure that serves both the short-term and long-term needs of your business.

You should take note of the relevant authorities and regulations that will oversee and regulate your business, and any support they may offer to your business. You should also be mindful of proper management of your intellectual property rights portfolio and your human resources (i.e. players and employees) as these are likely to form the core of your business. At the same time, be careful of the risks that also plague this industry, such as cybersecurity threats and e-sports betting and fixing.

If you require any further legal advice or guidance, you can consult a lawyer. For the setting up of your business or funding issues, you may wish to reach out to a corporate lawyer. If you require assistance on intellectual property rights and management, do consult an IP lawyer. If you require assistance with your players’ contracts or employment matters, you can consult an employment lawyer.

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