There’s no doubt that sports betting has taken most of the country by storm in just a few short years. Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned in 2018, more than half the country has legalized sports betting in one form or another. In most states, there are countless online sportsbooks offering bettors special bonuses and features, giving bettors plenty of options if they want to partake in sports betting.
All of the prominent sportsbooks have each of the major sports well covered. But is there still room for growth in sports betting? The answer to that question could come from the world of esports, which could soon become the next great frontier for the sports betting industry.
There is no question that the audience interested in esports is growing in all corners of the world. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic helped the growth of esports with so many people forced to stay at home. In 2020, the global audience of esports was estimated at 450 million people. But even with the world moving past the pandemic, the worldwide esports audience in 2023 is estimated at around 640 million people. The popularity of esports continues to grow, especially with prominent celebrities like Drake and Will Smith making sizable investments in esports. In other words, the audience to make esports a more prominent part of sports betting is undoubtedly there.
Platforms like Twitch have also played a key role in the rise of esports. Twitch has allowed esports competitions to reach large audiences, making events accessible to anyone in the same way traditional sports can be streamed by anyone. Viewers on Twitch also have the ability to vote on the outcome of esports events. This practice is similar to placing bets on sporting events, making esports competitions ripe for sportsbooks.
Of course, there are already betting platforms dedicated to esports. However, these platforms are still in their early stages and leave something to be desired. At the moment, most dedicated esports betting platforms are built to attract esports users and fans but not necessarily serious bettors. In order for esports to become a fixture in the sports betting space, prominent sportsbooks will need to offer esports betting.
Naturally, there are some challenges to making this happen. For starters, sportsbooks are still focusing on trying to expand their operations as more states legalize sports betting. They don’t necessarily have the capacity to add new types of sports and events. Moreover, esports requires a different knowledge base than traditional sports. It’s not easy for established sportsbooks to adopt the regulations and infrastructure necessary to include esports on their platform.
There is also the challenge of deciding what esports will be carried on a betting platform. Esports fans in different countries tend to favor different games. American fans prefer Fortnite and League of Legends whereas German and French fans prefer Overwatch. Meanwhile, League of Legends is popular in countries like Russia and China but not France and Germany. In order to adequately cover the esports world, sportsbooks would have to cover a wide range of games, which is easier said than done.
On top of that, the global esports audience doesn’t necessarily overlap with sports bettors. Not all esports fans are familiar with prominent sportsbooks. At the same time, those who are accustomed to using sports bets aren’t always familiar with esports. Also, it’s not always easy for casual esports fans or newcomers to esports to quickly gain an understanding of how competitions work to the extent that they feel comfortable betting on them. In other words, there is still a chasm between the world of esports and the world of sports betting.
However, there are still reasons to believe that esports can become the next great frontier in the world of sports betting. The biggest reason is the growth of online sportsbooks and online casinos. These platforms are a natural fit for online platforms like Twitch that have helped the growth of esports. They also offer increasing opportunities for esports fans to place wagers on events while also allowing sports bettors to slowly become introduced to the world of esports. Ultimately, the incredible growth that both esports and sports betting have experienced in recent years – not to mention their obvious similarities – makes it easy to see the possibility of esports and sports betting continuing to converge in the years to come.