We can safely say that eSports, previously a fixture of certain niches of the gaming industry, is officially mainstream. From Dota 2 and CSGO tournaments, where prize pools are in the millions of dollars, millions of fans tune in to watch their favorite teams compete against each other.
The advent of eSports also attracted the attention of betting operators looking to expand into new money-making avenues beyond the traditional sports that once dominated the betting landscape. And with the increasing adoption of eSports by betting operators came the need for services such as OddMatrix for administrative purposes. OddsMatrix provides the tools and integrations so that betting companies can seamlessly integrate eSports betting into their offering.
This article will explore why bookmakers should double down on eSports. But first, a bit of history.
Broadly, an eSport is any multiplayer game played competitively for the enjoyment of spectators, typically (but not exclusively) by professional players.
Functionally, it’s the same as any traditional sport, including less physically demanding sports like chess. Some popular eSports include Dota 2, Starcraft, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, League of Legends, Rainbow Six: Siege, and many, many others.
While the answer to this question depends on who you’re asking, it generally comes down to accessibility and the novelty factor. While traditional sports have been slow to move to streaming and mobile, eSports have always been an exclusively digital phenomenon. eSports games can be accessed from computers, tablets, and mobile phones, whether you’re a viewer or a player.
Their accessibility, coupled with the novelty factor of watching video games played competitively and narrated by professional voice casters in a professional setting, are two major reasons why esports have gained so much clout both within the gaming community and the general public.
Bookmakers and betting operators were quick to jump on the bandwagon because eSports, a digitally-native medium, converts very well to the current online-centric betting ecosystem. For example, the typical user can easily switch between watching their favorite teams battling in the arena and placing their bets, making live betting a more natural fit for eSports.
The second reason is, quite simply, money. eSports is a literal money-making machine: “The global esports market size was valued at USD 1.45 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from USD 1.72 billion in 2023 to USD 6.75 billion by 2030.”
Thirdly, eSports is an excellent opportunity to reach a wider audience outside traditional sports. There are more eSports games now than there were ten years ago, and new “star” esports games can pop up at any moment – so the earlier sports operators act, the higher the chances to lock in that sport and attract customers.
Any discussion about eSports betting eventually turns to the legality of the practice. And the answer is always this: it depends on the jurisdiction.
The short answer is yes; consumers can gamble on esports, whether they want to back a match-winner, bet on live events, or any other type of sports bet. Esports gambling is legal across many countries worldwide.
Now, things become trickier when it comes to specific locations. For instance, some countries specifically allow betting on the outcome of eSports events. Some places heavily regulate eSports betting (we won’t get into the specifics in this article), while in others, eSports events are approved on a case-by-case basis. Then there are the fringe cases of countries that technically allow eSports betting even though there are no laws.
Let’s look at a few examples:
The good news is that eSports betting has been legal in the US since 2017. The bad(ish) news is that the US does not regulate eSports betting on a federal level. Essentially, it means it’s up to each state to decide whether eSports gambling is a hobby they’d rather not have their citizens partake in. While delegating the decision on whether eSports betting should be allowed to the states may have advantages for the consumer, betting operators may find parsing the laws and setting up shop in each state logistically tricky.
The United Kingdom is one of the biggest regulated betting markets worldwide, home to many leading operators that have become synonymous with the betting industry.
This, of course, extends to eSports as well, with many companies making them part of their main roster of offerings. The UK Gambling Commission licenses all bookmakers. In addition, the UK as a whole sports a strong support network to ensure that eSports events are safe and fair, warding off the shadier elements of the gambling industry.
Canada has the most straightforward answer to this question. Not only is eSports betting legal in this country, but Canada also has Bill-C218. This nifty law allows betting operators to expand their operations and include eSports in their roster. So, with eSports entirely in the realm of legality, it’s up to individual provinces to regulate and implement eSports betting as they see fit.
OddsMatrix is licensed in multiple jurisdictions, eliminating the legal risk associated with operating across the globe.
As we’ve previously mentioned, eSports is and has been a huge money maker for a while now. As the popularity of this niche has grown, so has the professionalism of the teams and players.
What was initially a patchy, loosely connected network of semi-professional teams battling in their free time is now a sprawling competitive scene with huge teams that compete and operate much like a football team or whatever your sport of choice. With top eSports teams such as FaZe Clan, Team SoloMid, Team Liquid, Natus Vincere, and others achieving spectacular feats and hitting a metaphorical “ceiling,” the need for funding arose to take things to the next level.
You’re probably already seeing where this is going – sponsorship deals. Sponsorships are an excellent opportunity for betting operators to actively participate in developing the eSports scene and to reach audiences they couldn’t have reached otherwise with traditional sports offerings. Companies from all fields have been jumping on the eSports bandwagon, so why shouldn’t betting operators do it, too?
A quick glance reveals some baffling numbers. As of 2023, there are 532.1 million eSports audiences worldwide. 60% of eSports fans are aged between 16 and 35. And, more relevantly to this point, the average age of an e-sports fan is 26 – exactly in the middle of the average person’s peak earning years. By expanding into eSports, betting operators can tap into a new, younger audience that they may not have reached otherwise.
Due to eSports’ innate digital nature, they produce vast amounts of data – and since the betting industry runs on data, this presents a great opportunity for operators to finetune odds and provide an increasingly smooth experience for customers. Let’s take Dota 2 as an example. Dota 2 is a tower defense strategy game with two teams of 5 members, each aiming to destroy the base of the other.
The core gameplay is micromanagement-heavy – players must consider timing, arena positioning, gear and ability purchases, individual hero pros and cons, and many factors. With the duration of each match averaging around 50 minutes and so many gameplay variables and player inputs, the number of possible outcomes is staggering.
This is where machine learning comes into play, as an algorithm could take the more abstract gameplay variables (such as player health) into account and translate them into odds that are more accurate than for a “physical sport,” whose outcome can be harder to predict due to outside elements (weather, player injury, and so on).
OddsMatrix provides real-time odds data for a multitude of sports, including eSports. Not only that, but OddsMatrix integrates this data natively into the platform so bookmakers can access accurate, up-to-date odds at any time. Bookmakers can also set personalized odds that can be adjusted to the day-to-day realities of the market and trends.
Main takeaway: because eSports are 100% digital and relatively low-impact from a physical standpoint, algorithms have an easier time calculating odds, improving the customer’s experience and the betting operator’s bottom line.
Thanks to the digital nature of eSports, operators have access to all game-related data. This is why eSports and in-play betting are a good fit, as operators can offer a wider variety of in-play bets than ever.
However, in traditional sports, in-play betting eventually hits a complexity ceiling because there’s only so much data a bookmaker or betting operator can track. Then there are the limitations of traditional sports, as there are only so many noteworthy events operators can work in-play betting around.
Now think about a game like Rainbow: Six Siege, where customers could place a wager on a player’s operator choice. Or Dota 2, where bettors may bet on the number of consecutive “last hits” a player manages to execute. Bottom line, eSports, through their very complex nature, can provide an exciting dimension to in-play betting that traditional sports can’t.
In that respect, OddsMatrix’s real-time updating sports database allows bookmakers to offer live betting (also known as in-play betting). Customers can enjoy the prospect of betting on their favorite eSports in real-time, while bookmakers have the opportunity to attract more customers.
A critical byproduct of the increasing popularity of eSports betting and its incorporation by many leading operators is that the sport is safer than ever. According to a Washington Post piece published at the peak of the pandemic, traditional “gambling states” such as Nevada and New Jersey had adopted eSports gambling as a temporary measure to soften the blow dealt to the economy by the pandemic.
However, the increased attention from Vegas and other big industry players created the incentive to double down on curbing cheating and increasing the integrity of the sport overall. This resulted from gambling companies, eSports stakeholders, and developers teaming up to create advanced anti-cheat software and the logistical framework to implement it effectively.
In other words, eSports betting is safer than ever, as the anti-cheat software makes cheating almost impossible. The piece uses a great analogy to illustrate this point:
“Moreover, unlike traditional sports where a player’s intention to throw a game could be more obvious, a malicious eSports player can hide to a degree behind the game’s technological components — with a player’s actions filtered through a computer and a network before becoming visible on screen — to mask anomalous behavior or utilize cheating software. When reactions measured in milliseconds can decide the outcome of an eSports event, it’s harder to determine if a player is throwing a match or just having a bad day.”
We are aware of the inherent risks involved in the eSports betting industry. As such, OddsMatrix offers various Risk management tools and features to help bookmakers better manage these risks. With OddsMatrix, bookmakers can spot and address risks proactively. Our tools take into account elements such as betting patterns and customer behavior. This helps bookmakers balance books and, by extension, minimize exposure to certain risks.
OddsMatrix is the leading data provider for savvy betting agencies that want to take their eSports gambling businesses to the next level.
OddsMatrix has a wide array of tools and integrations that help sports betting agencies scale their eSports betting business, streamline their operations, and offer the best possible customer experience.