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The Rise Of eSports Betting: New Phenomenon Or Temporary Fad?

esportsPerhaps more than any other business in the history of modern times, the betting industry is one that has not only survived but continue to grow year on year. People have placed bets in both a private and public capacity ever since money was invented, yet the various authorities have long tried to clamp down on the activity. In the beginning they did this in the United Kingdom by restricting where people could bet to racecourses, with off-site betting shops illegal until the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 permitted the opening of shops from the 1st of May 1961. Even then, though, they didn’t make things easy for punters; betting shops were viewed as seedy affairs, kept down side streets and with blacked out windows and the like. Not that that stopped betting companies from opening them, of course, with around ten-thousand opening within six months of it being legal to do so.

What, then, is the secret of an industry that has had to fight for the right to operate openly virtually every step of the way? One the answers is the willingness of people to place a bet regardless of whether or not it was legal do so. After all, it’s not hard for an industry to flourish if people are literally willing to break the law to partake in it! Yet that’s far from the only answer and certainly not the answer that we’re most interested in here. The biggest reason that the gambling industry has managed to flourish with every passing year is its willingness to move with the times. This manifests itself in numerous ways, such as the fact that gambling companies were amongst the first to realise the potential of engaging customers on their mobile devices. It can also be seen in the way that new sports and betting methods are added to the industry’s roster on a regular basis. That is never more evident than in the way that gambling firms have taken to the world of eSports. Yet what is this new topic that’s become ripe for betting? What do you need to know about it? Most importantly of all, is it just a fad or is it here to stay?

What Are eSports?

esports teams playing against each other graphic

Your response to the idea of betting on an eSport when you here what one is will likely reflect your age. In short, eSports are computer games being played by professional gamers. If you read that and thought ‘duh, obviously’, then the chances are you’re twenty or younger. If you thought ‘I’ve always played games but I didn’t know I could do it professionally!’ then it’s probably a safe bet that you’re around thirty. Whilst if you either still don’t really now what we’re talking about or thought something along the lines of ‘Don’t be so ridiculous, that’s not a profession!’ then we’d hazard a guess that you’re mid-to-late forties or older.

It might seem like a bit of a joke when you first read about it, but we promise you that eSports are very big business. The top players are just as well trained in their discipline as Premier League footballers and Olympians, with the main difference being that they won’t necessarily have the same physique… The best players out there will have played the game that they’re experts in for more than three-thousand hours before they even think about entering into the biggest tournaments. When we say ‘biggest tournaments’ we’re not just talking about a teenager having a few mates around, either. The 2017 International Dota 2 Tournament had a prize pool of more than $24 million. That’s virtually double the $10.25 million prize pool that the Golf Open Championship boasted in the same year.

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that not any game can become an eSport. The most popular ones tend to be first-person team shooter games, such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the aforementioned Dota 2 and League of Legends. One of the most recent games to grip the interest of the eSports fraternity is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short. Think of it as being like a Hunger Games style battle, with ninety-nine players ‘dropped’ into an unknown area that they’ll need to scour for clothes, weapons and energy boosters. The playing area gradually shrinks as the game goes on, with the aim being that you’ll need to be the last person alive if you’re hoping to win the game. It may well sound random if you have no experience of it, but from March to August of 2018 around $1.5 million in prize money was earned.

How Do You Bet On eSports?

esports how to bet example

In essence, betting on eSports is identical to betting on any other sport, with the only major difference being how readily available the betting markets are. More and more bookmakers are, as we suggested at the start, realising the potential of allowing punters to bet on eSports, so it’s certainly become easier to do it. The problem at present is that the actual bets that you can place are likely to be more limited on all but the most major tournaments. Most of the time, you’ll find that the main betting market is simply the Match Betting. That shouldn’t necessarily put you off, however, thanks to the fact that you’ll be able to find a large number of stats on the internet about each of the main teams and their success rate, including how they have done in the past against the other teams that they’re playing.

In fact, if you delve a little deeper then you’ll soon find that that information available is even more in-depth than with some major sports. If you’re looking to bet on a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive match, for example, you’ll be able to find out not only how successful a given team is at the game but also which maps they tend to do better on. That is information that can serve you well when it comes to betting on the games, thanks to the fact that some bookies have rushed to get some eSports coverage on their sites but don’t necessarily have the expertise in place to offer sensible odds on them. That is even more the case when you start to look at In-Play markets, where you’ll sometimes find odds with incredible value if you’ve done your research and know what you’re talking about. You can also bet with Handicaps as well on bet on Under / Over markets, which opens up the possibilities markedly.

If you are looking for a recommendation of where to bet on eSports then quite frankly there is no one who can compete with Betway.  They take the sport more seriously than any other brand with dedicated odds traders (meaning best prices), dedicated offers and the biggest market depth around, especially in play.

Can eSports Be Fixed More Easily Than Other Sports?

no to match fixingOne of the big questions that you might be asking right about now concerns the likelihood of eSports being fixed. It’s worth noting that football is one of the most watched and popular sports in the world and yet has still suffered a number of high-profile match-fixing incidents over the years. Surely it’s even more likely to occur in a relatively random sport that not all that many people know about? There’s no question that it has happened in the past, with one of the most high-profile examples being the iBuyPower and NetcodeGuides scandal of 2014. In short, that involved a team playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that was one of the favourites ‘throwing’ the game and losing 16 – 4. Yet whilst it does happen, it’s not all that common and is easier to spot than it would be some more traditional sports.

If a horse doesn’t win a race, for example, it’s not necessarily easy to explain why or how it didn’t. Did the jockey not ride it properly? How do you show that without some evidence of collusion? Yet in eSports it’s easier to analyse different playing patterns and watch them back from multiple angles thanks to the way that computer games work. Given that the industry is worth about $700 million annually, however, there will always be those that look to find shortcuts to making money. If you’re at all worried about it then you’d do well to ensure that you only place your bets with bookies that you trust and only do so on the major tournaments. One way of thinking about it is like greyhound racing; it’s possible that races will be fixed, but that’s much more likely to be the case if you bet on events at flapper tracks than ones run by the Greyhound Board Of Great Britain.

Does eSports Betting Appeal To Children?

esportsOne question worth considering with regards to eSports is whether or not there’s an extent to which the ability to bet on them is morally dubious. The main reason for that is that computer games will, as we hinted at earlier, naturally appeal more to the younger generations than the older ones. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that those over thirty-years-old might well need eSports as an activity explaining to them, whilst today’s school kids will likely have played most of the games that people are betting on, let alone be considering getting into eSports as a possible career. So doesn’t that make the fact that we can place bets on them somewhat troubling, when you bear in mind that it’s illegal for people under the age of eighteen to place bets in the United Kingdom but that’s precisely the audience that will be most au fait with the games?

It’s worth remembering that betting companies stopped advertising on children’s sporting shirts as long ago as 2007. That was at the same time that betting companies were banned from advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed, apart from during sporting events, such was the fear of children being encouraged to bet as soon as they were legally able to do so. It was decided at the time that betting commercials could not feature anyone under the age of twenty-five, yet research carried out by the sports broadcaster ESPN in 2017 discovered that the average age of eSports’s most successful players ranged from twenty-five for Super Smash Bros Melee to twenty-one for League of Legends. Betting companies would likely respond that the games shouldn’t be being played by younger people, with the Entertainment Software Rating Board categorising Counter-Strike: Global Offensive as a ‘Mature’ game for seventeen-year-olds and up.

The Future Of eSports

esportsBack to the question from our introduction, then: are eSports a fad, or are they here to stay? Obviously that sort of thing is difficult to answer without some sort of time-machine to hand, yet we can look at the rate of growth of the industry to give us some sort of indication of how things are going. On that front, there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down of a constantly growing market. According to a market intelligence firm called NewZoo, the number of players, watchers and bettors of eSports was at the two-hundred and thirty-five million mark back in 2015. By 2017 that had grown to three-hundred and eighty-five million, which is a growth of around fifty percent. In terms of revenue, moved from $325 million to $696 million over the same period of time, which is impressive by any sport’s standards.

Indeed, a Business Insider article from 2017 predicted that the number of people interested in Esports would grow to the five-hundred million mark by 2020. The same article claims that Goldman Sachs valued the eSports industry at $500 million in 2016 but expected it to grow to being worth more than a billion dollars over the next three years. That is reflected in the popularity of events as a spectator sport. In 2014, forty-five thousand people gathered at Sang-am World Cup Stadium in Seoul to watch the world finals of League of Legends. That’s a venue that hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2002. If eSports continue to develop at the same rate as other major sporting events then they won’t be a passing craze aimed at millennials, but rather a major betting market that everyone will be looking towards.

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