We now inhabit a world in which teenagers can become multimillionaire megastars by playing video games for the viewing pleasure of their adoring fans. Anyone that finds this development surprising would be even more shocked to learn that esports afionados love to bet on the outcome of these matches and tournaments.
The esports wagering market is tipped to reach the $13 billion mark in the next year and it should continue to soar long into the future. Watching the very best League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2 or FIFA stars battle it out for fame and fortune can be a thrilling and entertaining experience for gaming fans. Yet that exhilaration is dialled up significantly if you have money riding on the result.
Betting sites cash in on esports
Bookmakers are well aware of the spiralling popularity of esports – last year’s League of Legends World Championship Final enjoyed more viewers than the Super Bowl – and they have invested heavily in dedicated sections within their sites that cover competitive gaming. The pioneers are betting sites like Unikrn, which is solely dedicated to the flourishing world of esports. It provides odds on a number of big esports, while it also features news, tips and guides and an ecommerce store.
Within a major title like League of Legends or CS:GO, you will find futures odds on tournaments, and also many different lines on specific matches. You are by no means restricted to simply betting on who will win. Just like traditional sports, you can find a wealth of exotic wagers on offer, including over/under totals on maps, handicap bets, correct scores and more.
Vast growth potential
It is already a pretty mature market and its potential for future growth is immense. The esports industry is only forecast to grow in popularity in the years ahead, and esports betting can mushroom alongside it.
In 2018, there were 215 million occasional esports viewers and 165 million diehard enthusiasts regularly streaming their favourite games. Those figures were up 13.8% on the previous year, and analysts at NewZoo expect a 14% annual growth rate until 2021. That would amount to 250 million esports enthusiasts and a total audience 557 million within two years.
The big question is: can betting on esports ever overtake wagering on traditional sports? The answer is a firm yes, but it will take a long time. Right now, the esports market is tiny compared to regular sports. KPMG estimates that the global sporting industry is worth between $600 billion and $700 billion, while esports will only just about break through the $1 billion barrier this year.
Esports betting is projected to rise to $13 billion over the next year, but the total estimated handle taken by the global sports betting industry – including online, land-based and illegal wagering – stands at $3 trillion. That is an enormous gap to make up. It will not happen overnight, but within a couple of generations the balance could be totally redressed.
Growing up with technology
Esports massively over-indexes with the younger generations, as teenagers and young adults have grown up with technology and they can relate to esports stars. Many find their exploits more impressive than those of Cristiano Ronaldo, Floyd Mayweather or Tiger Woods.
Incidentally, Mayweather and Woods are both billionaires due to their sporting prowess, while the top earning esports star is on a mere $4.8 million in prize money. Yet the tide is turning and a lot of that is down to streaming: Ninja makes $500,000 a month through his YouTube and Twitch channels, for instance.
There is a great chance of esports eventually matching and possibly usurping traditional sports in the popularity stakes. Big sporting franchises have seen the writing on the wall and they are manically investing in esports teams in order to safeguard their futures. A huge number of leading NBA and Premier League teams have esports equivalents, and you will see the Golden State Warriors facing the Houston Rockets while their League of Legends teams do battle on Summoner’s Rift.
The LoL World Championship final last year received more than 205 million viewers,. It is not quite at the level of the World Cup final, which saw France beat Croatia as 1.1 billion people watched on, but it usurped many big sporting events and it is extremely impressive when you consider how new esports is.
A decade of phenomenal growth
The scene only really kicked off in the last decade, when Twitch rose to prominence, high speed broadband was rolled out around the globe and games like CS:GO, LoL and Dota 2 were released.
In a short space of time, the industry has skyrocketed in popularity, and it is still concentrated on a handful of geographic areas. South Korea, Scandinavia, parts of Europe and North America are big hubs, while China is getting there, but there is a huge amount of untapped potential in Latin America, Africa and the rest of Asia.
The esports betting trade will benefit from its explosion in popularity, and it will continue to mature. At many bookmakers, esports has already overtaken sports like rugby and golf in terms of handle, and it has the potential to challenge football, basketball and tennis in the future.
The number of esports betting markets will swell, the bonuses and promotions on offer will improve and the resources available to bettors will increase. The next step will be for betting firms to tie up big sponsorship deals with esports teams and tournament providers. Big companies like Coca-Cola, Intel and MasterCard are already backing the esports scene, and it would make sense for sportsbooks to follow suit.
Esports enthusiasts are the consumers of the future and bookmakers cannot afford to ignore them. Technology will continue to improve, and you can expect esports to be a lot more dynamic than traditional sports over the next 50 years as new games hit the market and the scene becomes increasingly organised, professional and innovative.
Esports betting may usurp traditional sports betting, or it may simply be that the boundaries between the two become blurred due to the advent of augmented reality. It is a brave new world and esports wagering will only continue to soar in future.