It’s no secret that many in the world of betting are watching every move made in esports with a keen eye. They understand that this is the great new frontier for sports enthusiasts, generating the same sort of excitement and interest in the younger generation as they did for many others in the world of traditional sports in the past. While the two are not mutually exclusive, it’s no wonder the same companies are making moves that specifically target esports fans, and this means that there are great opportunities on the consumer side of things as well to watch out for.
For traditional betting sites, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to get into the world of esports. With Pinnacle being the pioneers in 2012, basically every other major sportsbook has gotten into the scene. Functionally, esports competitions are organized in a very similar manner to traditional sports events and the existing betting offers are also easy to align with this environment, which means they don’t have to make further infrastructural investments in order to offer esports betting. This also involves live (or in-play) betting, which is one of the biggest assets of sports betting sites nowadays. As many payment forms move to an online environment, this adaptation process becomes even more convenient for everyone involved.
Better still, the core audience is both young and has disposable income, with great opportunities to cross-promote betting services to traditional sports and games of chance or casino play – especially as the maturation and legitimacy of the industry continues to grow off the back of the involvement of universally respected companies like ESPN or Amazon. According to a 2017 study, esports bettors “participated in significantly more forms of gambling and each more often” while also being “significantly younger” than the average sports betting enthusiast. While this also raises concerns about the education of millennials getting involved with wagering on esports, it further highlights the benefits of a well-regulated, strictly licensed and constantly monitored betting environment.
Beyond the demographics, the overall business propositions are promising as well. Online sports betting is already a massive market, one which is slated to grow even further thanks to the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a 25 year old law (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – also known as PAPSA), which has given the greenlight to many monetization attempts in the space which were previously restricted in the country. Consider the chilling effect of online poker’s Black Friday in 2011 when basically all major operators were forced to shut down overnight in the US. This is basically the other side of the coin as slow relaxation of previously ultra-stringent rules about internet sports betting allows more and more actors in the scene to take advantage of parts or the whole of the US market. Past projections about esports wagers are exceeding year-on-year expectations even with Valve’s crackdown on skin betting sites in 2017.
For those of us who are already involved with esports betting, any news of this kind comes as a breath of fresh air. For years, the aforementioned shady skin betting sites tried to leverage the different virtual cosmetic items available in the different popular games – operating in a totally grey area both legally and ethically speaking – with no obligation to actually pay out when a player was trying to withdraw their deposits. These are ticking time bombs and massive headaches to the game developers and legitimate actors alike, and every change which allows more prestigious bookmakers into the world of esports benefits all of us in the long run as they keep pushing the envelope. Fantasy betting and other specialized offerings are also being rapidly adapted to the esports environment.
An expanded market also creates space for fully rules-abiding companies to create esports-exclusive (or at least specifically esports-focused) offerings without engaging in anything nefarious behind the scenes. Today, many betting sites that were created with gaming in mind are diligently jumping through the same regulatory hoops as the biggest names of the industry do on a regular basis. Their presence also helps with the problematic imagery of loot boxes – something which many in the mainstream consider the real convergence of esports and betting off the back of the widely publicized backlash to Battlefront 2’s controversial monetary model –, which definitely isn’t the case as far as the (e)sports betting side of things is concerned. With a market growing at such a rapid pace, optics matter more than ever before.
All in all, the growth of the esports betting market benefits traditional sports fans and gaming enthusiasts alike, increasing the quality of the experience in more ways than one, ultimately bringing it in line with the myriad of legitimate opportunities for those interested in how to gamble on sports.