In 2020, no single sport or activity saw a boost quite like esports. As the rest of the world reeled from the impact of a global pandemic, millions of fans tuned in to watch some of the only sports that were permitted during the long, lonely days of lockdown. Esports became a phenomenon amongst activity starved fans and punters alike, ushering in a betting revolution in the process. But can Esports’ gains over the past 12 months really be sustained long term? The answer is somewhat complex, so allow us to expalain.
Where once the world of Esports was raw and untamed, akin to that of the Wild West, today it stands as one of the most significant digital developments of the 21st century. Naturally, betting companies of all shapes and sizes soon spotted an opportunity to enter an ever-growing marketplace. The mainstream soon got involved, and today there is seldom a single major high-street bookmaker that doesn’t offer odds of some kind on esports events.
However, where esports differs slightly from traditional sports is simply how new and alien much of the world is to the general public. Its rapid growth has been remarkable, but can such gains be maintained long enough for Esports to become more widely understood by the general public? Betting can certainly help with this, as we all know how sports such as football and tennis have been greatly enhanced by peoples natural inclination to have a flutter while watching some of their favourite sporting events.
By all accounts, the esports and betting relationship is set to continue to grow and evolve heading into 2021. Many esports teams have a dedicated betting sponsor, just like your favourite football or cricket team would. Regulations around sponsorships of a similar nature are fluid and ever-changing, but if the laws prove to be favourable in this regard, you can very much imagine there eventually being exclusive betting partners in the not so distant future.
Since 2017, there has been a sustained increase in esports viewership around the planet. By the end of 2019, it had reached a staggering 455 million people, generating $1 billion worldwide last year. Growth will naturally begin to tail off as the sport becomes less esoteric, but make no mistake about it, esports - and esports betting - is very much here to stay. The attention gained from all the popular online gambling websites the last year have helped quite a lot as-well.
With that being said, there are still some hurdles that the industry must first overcome in order to continue thriving. A string of regulations are being introduced all around the world in an attempt to get a handle on esports betting. As life begins to return to normal in many regions in 2021, the charm of esports may slowly begin to wear off, as crowds returning to major ‘real world’ sporting events will inevitably rejuvenate interest in traditional pastimes.
This isn’t to say that esports will blend into insignificance; quite the contrary in fact, as the sport has a very young fanbase that will ensure its future. But a natural plateau period after the boom that was 2020 should be anticipated by the wider betting community. There is also widespread pushback from organisations such as GambleAware, who fear that the young nature of most esports fans will turn a generation onto more substantial, and potentially harmful forms of gambling. Such concerns will have to be addressed by the industry in time.
As we have outlined, there is every reason to believe that esports betting is very much here to stay. Esports and the wider gambling industry are on the up and have forged ever-closer ties in the second half of the last decade. Competitive gaming, in general, continues to garner global attention, with thousands of esports contests taking place on a daily basis.
That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that esports betting will be carried along in its wake, but given how small the industry remains compared to what it could eventually become, don’t bet against it. In time, every major sportsbook will likely offer an array of markets for major esports events throughout the year. This, in turn, will mean that you’ll be able to place esports bets at your favourite Las Vegas casino.
Whether esports gambling will truly take off in the way that many are expecting it to remains to be seen, but by the end of 2021, we’ll probably have a much better idea of where the cards lay.