If you have been following the gaming industry over the last few decades then you are likely aware of its transition from a niche market to a financial colossus. In the last 10 years, the US video game market has ballooned, from $39 billion in 2010 to $60 billion as of September 2020, and it is showing no signs of slowing down.
Alongside the gaming industry, Esports has been steadily growing in parallel, as more people venture from casual gaming into joining the massive viewership esports has started to garner. In 2019, the League of Legends World Championship had a peak viewership of 100 million people worldwide, essentially matching the viewership numbers of that year’s Superbowl.
The Growth of Esports Betting
With this massive rise in popularity, it is unsurprising that gaming has become a central market for the betting industry. While sports betting in general has been a contentious issue in the USA, after the federal ban outside of Nevada was removed in 2018, many states across the country have started to push through legislation to legalise sports betting. This has turned it into a booming economic market, with a total revenue of around $45.6 million as of March 2021.
While sports betting is certainly getting off the ground in a major way in the United States, esports betting has recently been benefiting by being an entirely online pursuit. A study from the UK Gambling Commission showed that traditional sports betting had seen a “62% decrease in gross gambling yield” during the pandemic, while esports betting in the UK exploded, with a 2992% increase in revenue from March 2019 to May of 2020.
Esports was already on a natural rise before the Corona Virus hit, however the huge influx of bettors certainly points to an advantage that esports betting has over its traditional counterpart. In a post-COVID world, the ability to handle all of your betting online and to have less concerns over external factors effecting your chosen sporting event is important.
Variety is the Spice of Life
One of the big draws for bettors is the vast array of options you have when betting on esports titles. Traditional sports generally revolve around a few major games, such as NBA, NFL and soccer if you are outside of the US. Comparatively, there are a huge number of competitive video games and video game genres you can bet on, with a site like Pinnacle offering around 15 titles to choose from, and MEBO having betting guides and odds for a large variety of different games.
Importantly, because there is such variation in the types of games being played competitively, there are also highly specific betting markets available that otherwise aren’t in traditional sports. While you have the usual win/loss bets to play with, a MOBA like League of Legends may also have something as specific as ‘team with the most towers destroyed at the end of a match.’ While traditional sports can match this to an extent with certain specific score bets, the fact that new video games are entering the competitive sphere all the time means that the betting community is gaining new betting options with each new release.
Both the traditional sports market and the burgeoning esports market are intertwined in a number of different ways. In fact, most esports betting websites will still offer traditional sports betting options in order to placate fans of both competitive arenas, and with many US states pushing to legalise sports betting in the coming years, we can expect a big climb in revenue for both sports and esports betting.
Having said that, esports’ general popularity is increasing at an alarming rate, with viewership numbers indicating that it may reach 800 million global viewers in 2024, closing in on the 825 million worldwide viewers enjoyed by the game of basketball.
These numbers have been accelerated slightly by the pandemic, with esports being able to weather the storm much better than traditional sports due to its online nature. This is also helped by the fact that even when esports events are called off, professional esports players can still play their game live on Twitch, maintain viewership and interest for the video game they are competing in.
With a huge increase in viewership, public awareness of esports rising, and major shifts in the legality of sports betting in the US, the esports betting market is likely to grow extremely swiftly in the coming years. Whether it will ever take over traditional sports is something that will remain to be seen, but as it stands, the two can be great enablers of each other and allow those who are inclined to gamble to have a huge array of betting options at their fingertips.