International edition
October 23, 2021

Major bookmakers are turning to that vertical

Esports betting could double down amid live sports events shutdown

Esports betting could double down amid live sports events shutdown
DraftKings has seen success with its free-to-play game based on NASCAR’s iRacing eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series.
United States | 04/08/2020

The global esports betting market is projected to grow to $30 billion this year, and experts say that number could double with the coronavirus outbreak momentum. BetMGM offered a free-to-play game on NBA 2K Players Tournament, which runs through this week, and expects more esports offerings to come. DraftKings and FanDuel are adding options and partners as well.

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ith the absence of most live sports, sport betting operators are turning more to different virtual events. Betting on eSports has become a clear sign of the times during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The NBA 2K Players Tournament kicked off April 3, and BetMGM offered up a free-to-play game to engage its users, only available in New Jersey. The bracket game’s deadline was Sunday and the tournament runs through this week, with a $20,000 prize to be split among winners. BetMGM will also match the winning prize with a donation to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Refund.

“The [NBA 2K bracket] is a bit of light entertainment during a difficult time in the sports calendar and world,” a spokeswoman from BetMGM said, according to Front Office Sports. “Hopefully, it’s the start of more esports offerings as we continue to work closely with regulators and look forward to offering more diverse esports platforms in the future.

Easing the regulations on esports betting in the U.S. could be a boon to the sports betting industry, said Daniel Kelly, academic director of graduate programs and clinical associate professor at NYU School of Professional Studies Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport. 

Kelly pointed out that the global esports betting market is projected to grow to $30 billion this year, saying that number could double with the coronavirus outbreak momentum. “The way the market is growing, I don’t think the world will turn back fully to the way we consume sports,” Kelly said. “With this opportunity to be the only option, it will continue to be on an upward trend with the investment that people are making in esports and the esports betting options growing.” 

The premier esports globally have been League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, but games like NBA 2K could help bridge the gap between traditional sports bettors and esports, Kelly said.

Earlier last week, FanDuel partnered with the Drone Racing League to offer a free-to-play daily fantasy game around the league’s SIM Virtual Tryouts. 

FanDuel’s DFS competitor DraftKings has seen success with its free-to-play game based on NASCAR’s iRacing eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series. DraftKings has scrambled to find more live sports to offer its users, ranging from soccer and hockey in Belarus and Russia to darts and ping pong, Johnny Avello, the company’s sportsbook director, said. 

Beyond its expansion to obscure sports and entertainment and political pools – the March Democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders drew 70,000 participants – it’s also expanding esports efforts. The company already had a daily fantasy option for League of Legends but has now added Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

“Esports certainly has some potential,” Avello said. “We’ve been discussing it for about three years, but when you have all the major stuff going on, for some reason, it doesn’t appeal to a majority because we have so much content to offer, but there is a group out there that does enjoy it. Esports is moving into the mainstream, and some of the offerings, when this is all said and done, will stick.”

A large reason some esports betting could stick is the content is engaging, and people are being drawn in as they search for competitive action during the absence of traditional stick and ball sports, Mark Balch, head of product and partnerships at Bayes Esports Solutions, said. Bayes Esports Solutions is a joint venture between Sportradar and Bayes Holding, a sports betting data and services company.

Balch said he foresees this time period “being strangely beneficial for the long-term growth of esports.Among the reasons it could be good for betting is the detailed in-play options, he said.

“The people that have started consuming esports content for the first time have generally done so because they are at home with more time on their hands, and they’re looking for something new to engage with,” Balch said. “It’s rarely a case of a traditional sports fan replacing that interest with esports. So when traditional sports do return, we shouldn’t lose a lot of those new fans we’ve attracted. The amount of time people are able to dedicate to playing and watching esports will likely decline, but the increased interest in esports will persist once traditional sports resume.”

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