Previously, esports were just single-player campaigns on a computer. The rise of multiplayer gaming has ushered in an era of online tournaments. This has led to the introduction of esports gambling. Esports tournaments like Dota 2 now offer prize pools in the range of $25 million. Given the meteoric rise of online gaming, it comes as no surprise that the segment has grown in the betting forum. With traditional sports now restricted during the pandemic, esports has gained a fresh lease of life. However, the writing on the wall is now clearer than ever. What’s next in the online gambling industry? As per statistics, maybe the answer lies in the growing popularity of esports.
How Does Esports Currently Fare in the Online Gambling Industry?
Even a few years ago, this question would invite laughter and general amusement. However, all that ridicule seems to have changed with the pandemic situation. Classic games like Halo, Call of Duty, and Dota 2 have always had a loyal fan following. But the entire gaming world does not share this popularity. Now, games like League of Legends, FIFA, Fortnite, Apex legends, and Smite have joined the fray.
With no visible end to the pandemic in the near future, bookmaker holding companies like the Stars group could report a decline in revenue in the amount of $135.6 million. This decline grew worse due to the absence of live sporting events to bet on. As per some reports, the online esports betting industry could be valued at $17.2 billion by the end of the year. The absence of newer opportunities has, in turn, forced potential bettors to explore other categories. And e-sports, under the guise of competitive gaming events, has gained center stage. Games like FIFA are called tier-2 sports in the betting market. They have reportedly seen a 200% increase in the number of players placing bets.
Esports and sportsbook offerings
A persistent problem with e-sports had been the dominance of the big three in the gambling industry. Three games account for around 85% betting activity. These games are CS: GO, League of Legends, and Dota 2. While these games may be extremely popular on Steam or on online gaming circles, to the average bettor looking to place a quick bet, there’s a learning curve involved. It is here that other lesser-known but easier to understand games have gained traction. For instance, Oddsmatrix witnessed a rise in 80% bettor activity in games like FIFA and NBA 2K.
In keeping with such changing customer demands, sportsbooks have started changing their approach towards e-sports betting. Nowadays, esports betting also offers line betting and competitive odds.
The Way Forward
The esports industry has traditionally centered around countries like South Korea and Japan, which have an active gaming community. In regions like North America where betting on traditional sports was more prominent, sportsbooks are now trying to generate interest. For instance, in the US, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has allowed the licensed sportsbook operators to wager on new releases. For example, games like ESL One Los Angeles, eNASCAR, and ESL Meisterschaft are now under consideration. Operators are thus now slowly opening up to the idea of diversification among the games. The betting market is now viewing many esports for potential in betting.
A large part of not going all out on e-sports for the sportsbooks stems from the fact that esports does come with its fair share of disadvantages. Firstly, unlike traditional sports, e-sports are highly disorganized and not standardized enough. In esports, there are no authorial bodies like FIFA, UEFA, or ICC. The highly non-standardized form nature of e-sports means that sportsbooks are not absolutely certain about how to go about marketing the segment. Secondly, the way esports betting operates right now, there is extremely limited scope for live betting and in-play betting,
So what are the challenges that esports have to contend with casinos and traditional sports to lead the online gambling industry? There is a need to develop games primarily dedicated to the betting ecosystem. The esports betting community, which is mostly a few select domestic audiences, should be expanded to incorporate international proportions. Most importantly, there has to be stringent regulation and larger betting opportunities for the bettors to place bets properly.
In the absence of traditional sports to bet on, novice bettors and seasoned punters may bet in esports. But that does not necessarily translate into brand loyalty. The esports gambling sector is growing at a faster pace than normal. While this holds for good news in the current scenario, this may not be the case when the pandemic is over. A faster growth rate at an unstable level might lash back at some point in time. So, it is uncertain whether esports will one day dominate the online gambling industry.