It appears that eSports betting isn’t just the latest betting trend, but a large industry that is here to stay. There are many reasons why eSports betting is so popular. Firstly, it is only natural for people who are into eSports, who watch eSports matches to want to cash in on their knowledge.
eSports are very dynamic, there are a lot of surprises and things can change within minutes. That’s why betting on eSports can prove to be lucrative, but also extremely exciting. Watching a match once you’ve wagered on it, is a lot more interesting than just watching without betting.
eSports matches are shown live online and it is usually free to watch, which makes things a lot easier for eSports fans and punters. Millions of people watch eSports, eSports are competitive, the game is divided into integral parts such as maps and round and other stats like kills are registered, it is easy to see why eSports are very well suited for betting, much like conventional sports.
Betting on eSports became soon after eSports became widely recognised, if not as sports, at least as competitive games. However, it didn’t seem that eSports betting will become that big, and it certainly didn’t seem like big betting operators would accept it and start offering eSports betting.
The reasons for doubting that eSports betting will become a mainstream thing were numerous. Firstly, eSports itself was highly unregulated and operators were weary of match rigging and other dangers. Moreover, eSports mostly attracted teenagers and youths, i.e. the largest proportion of the target audience were below 18 which meant that they couldn’t legally place wagers.
It seemed that skin betting might remain the only dominant form of eSports betting and that real money betting would be limited to wagers between friends and few slightly dodgy online sites. However, things changed, and they changed pretty fast.
It was young eSports enthusiasts who first suggested to large online bookmakers to start offering eSports betting. Initially, bookmakers saw eSports betting as a fringe thing and thought that it would attract only a small number of punters. Moreover, as they didn’t know the market that well, because eSports were relatively new and there simply wasn’t enough data to perform complicated statistical analyses, which is always done when the odds for other sports are set.
At first bookmakers didn’t make a lot of money from eSports betting. The betting volume wasn’t high and as the odds were very competitive, the punters were usually in a position to know a lot more about the upcoming matches than the bookmakers. That began to change as many of the eSports fans grew up and were finally old enough to bet, but also, many people in their 20s showed an interest in eSports.
If we look at things from an economic sense, the popularisation of eSports betting makes complete sense. The number of viewers was growing by the year, even by the month and the prize pools for the most popular eSports tournaments was growing each year. It only makes sense for the eSports betting industry to be growing as well. The most watched eSports event in 2017, the Intel Extreme Masters that took place in Katowice attracted over 45 million viewers.
Top eSports events reach millions on social media, are broadcast by dozens of TV and internet outlets and commentary is provided in multiple languages. Major bookmakers saw the potential and were quick to grasp the opportunity. Smart punters saw this as an open window. Things changed and eSports betting became a lot more organised.
eSports were officially recognise by the government of South Korea in 2000 but in the West that came later. In the early days of eSports, there were fewer tournaments, fewer prizes and the only offered form of eSports betting was skins betting. Skins betting was only available on a limited number of games, where players could acquire items that could later be sold for cash.
The items were usually wagered via third party sites that enabled the betting. These websites weren’t certified betting operators and they didn’t perform any checks to ensure that all punters are legally allowed to bet. On top of that, there have been many indications that certain punters engage in betting on matches in which they participate, and that was clearly a problem. However, due to the lack of regulation and the fact that the identity of the punters couldn’t have been positively verified by the third party skins betting site, the problem couldn’t be solved.
Thus, skins betting was regarded as a very dodgy form of betting that has to be avoided. Serious eAthletes, organisations and people who cared for the future of eSports sought to find a solution for this problem, as it undermined the reputation and status of the eSports industry as a whole.
That is skins betting was to be discouraged and preferably banned. Eventually Valve, the owner of the largest online gaming platform – Steam, threated to sue third party betting sites that allow punters to wager their Steam items.
When Valve effectively banned skins betting standard, real-money eSports betting was already available. Moreover, there was and there still is a number of sites that offer Bitcoin eSports betting. Bitcoin eSports betting is a very handy alternative for punters who wish to bet anonymously, as well as for those who live in countries where real money betting is restricted, since Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies don’t qualify as real money. Therefore, Bitcoin eSports betting, in some cases, doesn’t even qualify as betting.
In 2015 there were some online betting sites that offered eSports betting. But, the large bookmakers were still reluctant. Plus, the betting offer was far from diverse. In the early days, eSports betting was categorised together with virtual sports, despite the fact that the two are quite different. Very few video games were offered at first, and only the leading competitions (tournaments and leagues) were available at first. Moreover, the number of markets was also quite limits. Basically, you could only bet on which team would win the match. Later, the over/under market was introduced, i.e. you could also bet on the total number of rounds or maps that would be played before the winner is decided.
Punters quickly realised that real money eSports betting is a lot more reliable than skins betting. Firstly, betting operators that offer real money betting are licenced by relevant institutions, they work in accordance with laws and regulations and they offer their customers a high degree of security. Your money and personal data are always safe with reliable online betting operators and the same can’t be said of third party skins betting sites.
While the popularity of real money eSports betting was growing, the operators began to realise that eSports betting is here to stay, and judging by how quickly it was growing, many predicted that it might even surpass betting on traditional sports in the foreseeable future. Slowly, betting operators upgraded their betting offer, introducing new games and more betting markets. By 2017 when skins betting was practically completely banned, the eSports betting offer was as diverse as the betting offer for popular betting sports.
Punters were allowed to bet on less popular tournaments and less popular eSports, not just Dota 2, League Legends and CS: GO that were offered initially. Moreover, outright betting on the outcome of tournaments, leagues and other competitions was also introduced, in addition to betting on the outcome of individual matches. The betting volume was growing steadily and several betting operators that offered exclusively eSports betting were established.
Unlike skins betting sites that often operated in a legal grey area, exclusive eSports betting sites, or at least the reliable ones are licenced and regulated and the punters’ funds and personal information are always fully protected.
It is difficult to predict what the future holds for eSports betting, but if the history is any indicator, then we can expect bookmakers to start offering even more eSports, more markets and more betting options in general. Even today it is hard to find a major international bookmaker that doesn’t include at least some eSports and eSport competitions in its betting offer and it the future that would probably be unimaginable for an operator not to include eSports.
Moreover, we can also expect larger betting volume. Bookmakers will be making a lot more money from eSports betting, and even though it seems unbelievable now, in the future operators might be making more money from eSports betting than from betting on traditional sports. If the viewership of the finals of eSports events exceeds the viewership of the finals of other sports, than perhaps eSports will be able to compete with football, American football, basketball and tennis in the future.
The number of eSports that are played competitively will also increase and that means that the number of eSports that are available for betting will also be growing. Tournaments will be held in every eSport that can be played competitively and is popular with a sufficiently large fan base and as soon as the first official competitions are hold, eSports betting operators will start including that game in their betting offer.
Various free bet bonuses that are offered by betting operators can be used on eSports, at least in most cases, but there aren’t that many eSports betting bonuses, i.e. bonus offers that can be claimed exclusively by eSports punters. That will almost certainly change in the future and bookmakers will be offering more eSports betting bonuses. That’s due to the fact that eSports punters will become a much more important target audience for betting operators.
There are many companies who are looking to sponsor eSports teams these days, as eSports events are watched by millions. Bookmakers will sure take the opportunity and we can expect more eSports sponsorship deals between popular teams and major eSports betting operators. Almost half of the teams in the English Premier League in football are sponsored by bookmakers and there’s no reason why that wouldn’t be the case for the most popular eSports leagues.