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When the first-ever video game competition with actual prizes took place in October 1972 at Stanford University, no one, if not just a few people, envisioned the concept to grow into what it is today. The first true eSport tournament-like competition was Atari’s Space Invaders Championship that took place in 1980 with an audience of just 10,000 spectators, a sizable audience at the time. Today, an average eSport event attracts between 300,000 to tens of millions of eager fans with tens of millions of dollars in cash prizes.
The stellar rise of eSports in the internet era created a new inevitable area – eSports betting. It can be split into two – skin betting and traditional betting. Skin betting lets you risk your money on skins which are basically cosmetic add-ons that change the appearance of weapons and characters in a video game without affecting the performance. Skins have varying currency values that rely on their demand and rarity. Traditional eSports betting, on another hand, is more straightforward as players wager actual money on specific outcomes.
A New Type of Entertainment
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of many live sports events but also ensured that more people could bet from home during lockdowns.
Whilst the travel and gathering restrictions continue with the persistence of the virus, eSports is starting to gain new interest from many bettors who only came to understand this area during the lockdown. ESPN and broadcasters of its ilk have been offering Counter-Strike, LoL – League of Legends, Valorant, and Call of Duty, and more for many years now. LoL, Dota 2, and CS:GO still represent close to 95 percent of eSports betting activities even in the advent of other eSports categories.
More And More Licensed eSports Betting Websites
2020 will go down as the only year in recent betting history without traditional sporting events, thanks to (with a heavy heart) the cancellation of so many events as a result of the pandemic.
But there’s some encouraging news though. The industry is expected to grow at an even faster rate than what we saw in the pre-pandemic era. Licensing authorities are reported to be receiving high numbers of license applications, most of them targeting eSports. Companies have just realized the need to attract more boomers (and their vast disposable incomes) who might work from home the rest of their lives as well as usual eSport demographics of Generation Z and millennials. By 2024 – H2 predicts – the market will increase its share of the global betting industry from about 1.6 percent that was reported in 2019 to about 3.2 percent at the end of 2024.
You can’t talk so passionately about the past and the future of eSports without mentioning the contribution of the smartphone. eSports has seen remarkable growth due to the rise in mobile viewing and gaming much of which occurs on smartphone and tablet computers. The Twitch app is one of the most downloaded gaming apps both on the Apple Store and Google Play Store. With bettors unable to access land-based bookies during the last lockdown, smartphone-based betting has grabbed close to 80 percent of betting markets in some countries, via both iOS and Android devices. In some cases, accounts can be created easily without requiring bettors to download the application, but simply through their mobile browsers.
Nevada-based Sportsbooks Aren’t Interested!
Nevada doesn’t make up the entire planet’s opinion on gambling although being the home of Las Vegas alone makes it an industry barometer.
Well, so far, the barometer has shown a chilly stance for eSports. Specifically, sportsbooks in the state haven’t shown any interest in including eSports betting on their lists. Could this be a sign of doom for the industry?
Sandra Douglass Morgan, the chairperson of NGCB (Nevada Gaming Control Boards), spoke about the issue at the UNLV gaming conference in 2019. She mentioned that just 4 operators have requested to offer eSports betting so far. The state has about 136 active operators, most of them based in Las Vegas.
“There is a significant public interest in eSport.” she said, “But there isn’t any matching enthusiasm from licensees to avail wagers on eSport events.”
The good news, however, is that more gamblers are interested in eSports betting now than ever. The lack of interest from operators most likely has something to do with the oversight in the industry.
“As eSports grow, and sanctioning and oversight organizations emerge,” Morgan went on to say, “the board looks forward to increased eSports style wagering.”
eSports Betting Is On a Bull run, With or Without Las Vegas
Sportsbooks in Nevada may be less enthusiastic with eSports betting, but that doesn’t mean investors aren’t seeing the potential.
Zev Fima, an eSports enthusiast and research analyst at Jim Cramers’ Action Alerts think there is a synergy between betting and eSports, as it could only get better. He also believes that more gamblers involved means more eSports viewership and vice versa. Investor interest too is on the rise.
Fima sees the eSport betting industry becoming large enough to push casinos to roll out dedicated eSportsbooks. Although eSport betting is mostly concentrated in Asia, he also views it as appealing when you look at its global audience.
He’s so optimistic about international viewership that he reckons eSports viewership and betting could surpass what the NFL has now.
After all, the audience for NFL gets thinner as you gaze beyond North America, with very few Canadians and almost nobody on the global stage showing an interest.
Still, there are a few things the industry must get right to realize real global expansion, like shifting the eyes away from Asia to Africa and the western world. There is also an urgent need to shine some light on smaller tournaments because only major tournaments get serious coverage. Most bettors are restricted to general sportsbooks. The problem is sportsbooks have to deal in many sports, from hockey to baseball. Such sportsbooks normally cover Overwatch, CS:GO, Dota 2, and LoL, and possibly a few more markets.
It is for a fact that the largest online bookmakers rake in a decent amount of money from this limited selection.