For so long it was seemingly impossible to imagine a world in which esports betting matched, or even surpassed, traditional sports wagering. That was before 2020 happened. As businesses closed and leagues were postponed, punters looked to esports as a means to get their betting fix. Suddenly, esports betting was the leading gaming activity in the country and, as reported by EveryMatrix, the medium grew fortyfold during the pandemic, with games such as FIFA and NBA2K seeing betting volume increase by 80%.
Indeed, as sports betting faced the reckoning that was Covid-19, esports betting thrived, but in the months that followed – when players and fans returned to stadiums and sportsbooks – the influence of esports on the gambling industry diminished. It once again descended behind the shadow of its more established older brother. With that in mind, what is next for esports betting? Can the medium return to the place in the sun it experienced for a brief moment in 2020?
The state of esports betting in 2022 is a curious one. Undoubtedly, as both sports betting and video games enter further into the national mainstream, betting on esports has continued to grow steadily. New Jersey recently passed legislation allowing betting on esports tournaments, becoming the first state to do so. With that, other states – including Nevada – are increasingly eager to allow regulated, taxed and legal esports betting. Despite this growth, esports betting operators are yet to capitalize on the gargantuan audience video games can bring to gaming. Indeed, perhaps the main attraction for legalizing and regulating esports betting across the nation in 2022 is the sheer number of people it can bring to gaming. In recent years, video game audiences have grown to surpass those of both traditional film and television, with upwards of 80% of Gen Z and millennials playing video games regularly. This potential user base, which is separate and distinct from the traditional sports betting crowd, could provide mountains of revenue for any operator willing to throw its hat into the esports ring. Ultimately, the esports betting industry in 2022 is a nascent one, an area of limitless potential that is yet to be tapped. Despite this, there has been growth, with products such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 dominating the market.
As things stand, esports betting has the potential to be huge, with an audience that can match even that of traditional sports. But what will the market look like in future? Can it capitalize on potential to create real growth? Currently, neither the right video game nor betting platform exists to bring esports betting into the mainstream, with games such as Counter Strike and DOTA far too impenetrable for general audiences. Furthermore, big operators are currently unwilling to bet big on esports. Is there a guarantee that the avid gamer can become the avid bettor?
There is hope, however, that with the right technological advances and creativity, the industry could very well experience an esports boom in the coming years. These advances will include better data tracking in video games, allowing for more accurate and in depth bets, and a generation of games designed with betting in mind. As Ari Fox of the Casino Esports Conference said: “If developers do not make these games, operators eventually will.”
Ultimately, if esports betting is to become the juggernaut it can be, operators and games developers must take a different approach to that used in sports betting. Video gamers value community, engagement and personality more than traditional sports bettors. In turn, for esports betting to truly explode in the years to come, these must be the central focus of the esports betting industry,;fusing the hugely successful aspects of the sports wagering world with the things this generation of gamers value themost. When that is achieved, the audience will come and the gambling industry in the Americas will have a new powerhouse on its hands.