Will Esports Betting Level Up the Industry?

When people stand to gain something from the outcome of an event, betting is an unavoidable result of that situation. Unsurprisingly, that same thing has been happening with esports over the past few years as the scene continues to grow.

What is esports betting?

Esports betting involves gambling on the outcome of professional video game competitions. Fans bet real money on the team they think will win with the payout depending on the tournament’s scale and the chances a specific team has to win.

Companies that focus entirely on esports usually run esports betting websites, but that isn’t exclusively the case. Some traditional sports betting platforms have successfully integrated esports betting into their websites as well.

How has betting influenced other major sports?

Platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel started as fantasy sports websites, taking bets on football, baseball, and other traditional sports. Then in 2019, FanDuel became the first U.S. online sportsbook to offer esports betting. In March of 2020, DraftKings added Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), and Rocket League to their betting platform.

With the cancellation of live sporting events due to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020, esports has soared in popularity. With this increase in popularity came an increase in esports betting as well. According to the Esports Insider (ESI) Gambling Report, “on March 18th, esports betting platform Luckbox reported a 54 percent upswing in new player registrants following cancellation of the English Premier League.”

How does the success of one affect the other?

Before esports betting was about betting on matches, it involved betting on skins. Skins are in-game cosmetic modifications for either weapons or characters. CS:GO is one such game where skins can gather tens of thousands of dollars in value.

One of the biggest betting-related scandals in esports is the 2014 iBUYPOWER match-fixing scandal, which resulted in four pro players being banned from tournaments sponsored by Valve, the developer of CS:GO.

In 2016, two popular CS:GO YouTubers, Trevor “TmarTn” Martin, and Thomas “Syndicate” Cassell, were discovered to be the owners of a CS:GO gambling site that they promoted on their channels. The two never disclosed that they owned the website, resulting in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and a lawsuit against Valve and other similar betting websites. The latter lawsuit ended with Valve changing its skin-trading system and sending a cease-and-desist letter to some major skin-betting sites.

Despite these punishments to players and the game itself, betting has still found its place with betting on match outcomes. This betting system can bring more attention to smaller tournaments and put them in the same spotlight as major tournaments. A downside to match betting that comes with any sport is toxicity towards the players on the losing team. Ex-Cloud9 player Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir puts the situation nicely in this short YouTube clip from one of his Twitch streams.

Will the industry acclimate to the inevitable involvement of bettors?

Over the last few years, esports betting has become a more mainstream option for bettors worldwide. The community has been calling for esports betting to become more regulated, and with the skin betting websites shutting down around 2017, that regulated esports betting scene is becoming a reality.

As a whole, esports betting is a fantastic opportunity for both betting websites and tournament organizers to grow and make more money. Esports betting appeals to the generation that has grown up with the internet and the older demographic looking to put money into something new and exciting. 

I think as the popularity of esports continues to grow as well as it has over the past few years, esports betting will become as regular of an occurrence as traditional sports betting is. With the government regulations that are likely to arise over the next few years, everyone involved stands in gaining something from esports betting, and that is a beautiful thing.

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