Betting on eSports matches is growing just as fast – if not faster – than eSports itself. What was once an informal system of wagering conducted primarily between friends and acquaintances is quickly mushrooming into an industry where hundreds of millions of dollars are risked on an annual basis by millions of players hailing from nearly every corner of the globe.

With that rapid growth naturally comes quite a great deal of uncertainty among people interested in betting on eSports. Even if you’re quite familiar with the game being played, the world of betting on that game may still be a completely new one to you. And if you’re more of an enthusiast than a devout gamer, you might have questions on both the game side and the wagering side.

The eSportsBets.com FAQ is designed to answer all of the fundamental questions – and concerns – that a typical bettor may have before placing money on an eSports outcome. Feel free to contact us with suggestions for additional items to add to the FAQ or if you’d like any additional information on the facts and opinions below.

How can you bet on eSports?

There are a variety of different ways that you can wager on the outcome of eSports competitions (or even on specific outcomes within an eSport competition). We’ve grouped them into four basic categories:

  1. Traditional sportsbook betting.
  2. Fantasy sports betting.
  3. Item betting.
  4. Social betting.

eSports: traditional sportsbook betting

Here we’re talking about betting on eSports within a traditional sportsbook context – the same way that you would place an online bet on a football game or golf match. The majority of major online bookmakers now offer at least some amount of eSports betting, although the quality and quantity of the offering can vary greatly by each individual sportsbook.

  • The primary advantage of betting eSports at a traditional sportsbook is that you can place your bet with confidence, knowing that there’s a credible operator behind the online site taking your wager.
  • The downside of betting at sportsbooks when it comes to eSports is that most sportsbooks are still getting to know the eSports industry, meaning that you might find an inferior selection of stakes and wagers, at least for the time being.

Two traditional sportsbooks that have embraced eSports betting are Pinnacle and bet365.

Fantasy eSports betting

This genre of betting is especially popular in the United States, where access to quality online sportsbooks is limited by laws and regulations. But, thanks primarily to a federal law known as UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), fantasy-based wagering enjoys at least a partial exemption from gambling law in America.

Where traditional betting generally has to do with the outcome of a match or a specific event within the match, fantasy betting generally sees opposing players build lineups (their fantasy team) for major events – just as one would do with fantasy football or baseball. The lineup that performs the best of the course of the predetermined event or series of events is the winning lineup.

That’s the other core difference between fantasy sports betting and traditional sportsbook wagering: instead of betting against the house as you do with sports wagering, with fantasy betting you’re competing against other players.

  • The primary advantage of fantasy eSports betting is that it’s readily available and generally considered legal in the majority of U.S. states.
  • The downside: it’s not quite the same as placing a bet on the outcome of an eSports match.

While fantasy eSports started as a niche product, it’s growing quickly, thanks to the introduction of daily fantasy sports that allow players the opportunity to compete in new fantasy contests each week as opposed to spreading a competition out over months or even the entire year. Currently there are some quarter of a million players competing for millions of dollars each month at Vulcun and AlphaDraft, the leading sites for fantasy eSports.

Item betting

Item betting is a general term for betting – sometimes formal, sometimes informal – that takes place within or alongside marketplaces for in-game items. It’s difficult to appreciate the full size of this particular aspect of eSports betting as there’s very little visibility into volume. But anecdotally, there is enough to suggest tens of thousands of players are participating in such wagering – often at surprisingly high stakes.

Generally item betting doesn’t involve any cash, at least not directly. Instead, wagers and prizes are conducted entirely using transferrable in-game property such as weapons or abilities. In many cases, these items are exchangeable for cash at a third party destination, blurring the lines when it comes to the legality of these types of bets in certain jurisdictions.

  • The primary advantage of marketplace betting is that it’s relatively simple and can help you get some value out of items you don’t have a use for,
  • The downside of marketplace betting is that there’s almost no regulation and little way to know that the games you’re playing are far or that your winnings will be honored.

Despite the risks associated with marketplace betting, it’s easy to believe that it outstrips traditional sportsbook betting on eSports and fantasy eSports combined. Many players will not even consider this activity “gambling,” there is little restriction on who can participate and – in some jurisdictions – such gambling represents a reasonable economic opportunity for creative (or dishonest) participants.

Social betting

Social eSports betting refers to the type of casual bet placed between friends on the outcome of a match or event. This type of betting may also include challenge betting, where individuals compete directly for a wager.

  • The primary advantage of social eSports betting is that it’s a low-friction way to add a bit of fun and engagement to an already social experience.
  • The downside of social betting is that it’s a limited market. You have no guarantee that you’ll be able to find a friend who is willing to take the action you’re seeking. And, to be honest, if you’re always beating your friends with these bets, you’ll either run out of betting partners or friends before too long.

Attempting to estimate the size of this market is impossible, as there is little in the way of reliable or confirmable data, but given how organically betting and sport combine as a social activity, there is every reason to believe that it is substantial in size.

What should I look for in an eSports betting book?

We think there are a few fundamental questions you should be asking before choosing an online sportsbook to place eSports bets at:

  • Can I trust the site?
  • How good are their prices for eSports bets?
  • What promotional value do they offer?
  • What kind of bets can I place on eSports matches?

Can I trust the sports book?

Figuring out if you can trust a sportsbook online comes down to a few simple tests.

  1. The first is the test of regulation. What jurisdiction issued the license for the online sports book? You can usually find this information in the footer of the website for the sportsbook. If you’re not familiar with the jurisdiction, do a small bit of research. If there have been player issues with sites regulated under a jurisdiction, you won’t have to do much more than a cursory Google search to uncover them. What are some of the other sites the jurisdiction licenses? If you’re familiar with some online gambling brands already, where are they licensed?
  2. The second is the test of social proof. What are real people saying about the site on social media and on review sites? What kind of availability and accessibility does the site offer in terms of social media accounts and customer support? You can generally tell the difference between a credible, active site just by examining these simple characteristics.
  3. The third is the test of experience. Start small at a sportsbook that has passed the first two tests. Make the minimum deposit and place the minimum bet. If you have any questions or problems, pose them to support and gauge the quality and sincerity of the response. If you don’t like anything about your experience, move on. There are literally dozens of other operators that would be happy to have your business.

How good are the prices for eSports?

The odds on a given match won’t be the same at every online eSportsbook. You’ll want to do a bit of shopping around at first to determine which sportsbook tends to offer the odds that you believe are most favorable.

This is a question you should be asking regularly, as markets are dynamic and books regularly get better (and worse) at predicting specific markets.

What kind of promotional value does the sportsbook offer?

Price is only one part of the equation when it comes to getting the best value for an eSports bet. Sites offer players – especially new players – a variety of promotions and bonuses that can improve the payout you receive your play.

Three of the most important promotional components to be aware of include:

  • Deposit bonuses.
  • Free bets.
  • VIP / cashback programs.

What kind of bets can I place on eSports?

At this stage of the game, the quality and quantity of available bets on eSports varies significantly from sportsbook to sportsbook.

The dominant form of betting right now is match betting – betting on the outcome of a match or broader event. But some of the leading sportsbooks in the space – including Pinnacle and Unikrn – are experimenting with “live” betting or “in-play” betting, which are bets offered and made on events within the match itself.

In-play markets are among the most complex to develop and maintain in traditional sports, and it will likely take some time before robust live betting options are available for a wide array of eSports events at a wide array of books.

Users should also consider quantity, as not all eSportsbooks offer odds on all events. Some operators – such as bet365 and betway eSports – are rapidly increasingly their cover, while others – such as William Hill – appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to filling out their eSports betting tab.

Here’s our regularly updated table of who offers what for eSports betting.

Is it legal to bet on eSports?

This is a complex question that is impossible to answer for all users in all situations. The important thing to keep in mind is that you, as a bettor, are subject to the laws and regulations of your jurisdiction. If a particular type of betting on sports is not legal where you are located, then the same probably goes for betting on eSports.

Who regulates eSports betting?

There is currently no central regulatory body for eSports, although there are a number of leagues and entities – such as the ESL – that cooperate to varying degrees. As eSports grows, it’s likely that we’ll see the development of a single, overarching regulatory structure for the sport, although the global nature of the activity will complicate that undertaking to some degree.

When it comes to the regulation of the betting operators, the answer varies by operator. Each is regulated by the jurisdiction within which they are located (and may be subject to additional regulation based on the markets that they serve). There are a number of popular licensing hubs for online gambling, including the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.

How old do I have to be to bet on eSports?

There is no universal answer, as the minimum gambling age varies by jurisdiction. Sometimes sites will set their own minimum age above the local minimum age.

How do I know matches are fair and on the level?

The question of fairness in eSports play is a legitimate and growing one. There have already been a number of high-profile accusations of match fixing with eSports, including some that approach the highest levels of the sport.

Without some assurance that the game being played is fair, bettors have little reason to risk money on the outcome – even small amounts for social purposes.

There are a few factors that are helping to ensure and affirm the fairness of eSports matches:

  • Growth of eSports prize pools: As more money is on the line for winning competitions, the appeal of a financial incentive to throw matches diminishes.
  • Entrance of traditional sports books: Fighting fraud is one of the primary occupations of major online sportsbooks like bet365. As they enter the market for eSports wagering, they bring their substantial resources and expertise to bear on the problem of eSports match fixing.
  • Increased regulation: With increased prize pools and betting comes increased attention and regulation. Both increase the risk associated with match-fixing and decrease the ability of match fixers to hide in plain site.

How do you deposit to bet on eSports?

Here, as in many ways, eSports betting is practically identical to traditional sports betting online. You can fund your account and cash out from your account using just about any major financial instrument.

Using Mastercard / VISA to deposit for eSports betting

MasterCard and VISA are easily the two most popular ways to deposit for eSports betting. Players like this method because of the ease of use and built-in security. The downside comes for American Express customers, who often find themselves shut out of being able to deposit by credit cards. There may also be relatively low deposit limits or restrictions on how many deposits you can make within a certain time frame.

Can you use Bitcoin (BTC) to wager on eSports?

Not universally, and not at many of the major, established online sportsbooks that take bets on eSports. But there are some smaller online sports books, some of which specialize in eSports betting, that do allow BTC deposits and cashouts.

Other methods for eSports bet deposits

Additional methods for moving money to and from online eSportsbooks include:

  • Virtual wallets such as Neteller and Skrill.
  • Wire transfers from a checking account.
  • ACH transfers.
  • Cash deposits at a land-based satellite location.
  • Money transfer services.

The size of the eSports betting market

Due to the rapid growth and semi-private nature of eSports betting, there are no precise figures capturing the size of the market. A recent study from Eilers Research predicted that total wagering on eSports will exceed $20bn by 2020.

But, based on our research and experience, we can provide some general guidelines for thinking about the size of the market and where it’s likely to head in the future.

How many people are betting on eSports?

With a reported 145 million “enthusiasts” and worldwide audiences for major eSports events number in the tens of millions, it’s a safe bet that there are over 1 million players wagering real money on eSports online in 2015.

This number is bolstered by the fact that player totals for daily fantasy eSports sites Vulcun and AlphaDraft are in the hundreds of thousands – and that’s just one product focused primarily on the United States market.

How much money is bet worldwide?

We believe Pinnacle to be the leading traditional sportsbook in the eSports space, and they appear to be on pace to take their two millionth eSports bets in 2015. Even at a modest average wager and using other conservative assumptions, we’re still talking about a total amount wagered at eSportsbooks that will approach $50mm this year – and that’s not counting the $30mm or so fantasy eSports sites will see pass through their games.

We expect that well-funded eSportsbooks such as Unikrn will quickly pose a competitive challenge to the current dominance of Pinnacle, and that other mainstream sportsbooks will grow increasingly interested in the space over the course of the next year.

What regions bet the most on eSports?

Again, a lack of clear data inhibits a definitive answer to this question, but it’s our belief that betting on eSports likely follows a similar interest distribution to the one displayed on the general level of eSports participation.

In that case, the major regions for eSports betting based on 2015 data from SuperData would be:

  • Asia: 61%
  • United States: 23%
  • Europe: 12%
  • ROW (rest of world): 4%