Esports betting – What you need to know

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. We give you the chance to explore Esports betting and provide you with legit betting providers.

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.

What should I look for in an esports betting bookmaker?

We think there are a few fundamental questions you should be asking before choosing an online esportsbook 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 this sportsbook?

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

  1. The first is the test of regulation. Which jurisdiction issued the license for the online sports book? You can usually find this information on the website footer of 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 their 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 esports betting prices?

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 vary 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 Buff.bet, Rivalry, and ArcaneBet sites – 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 bookmakers – such as Bet365, 22Bet, TonyBet and Betway – are rapidly increasing their cover, while others – such as 888Sport, Unibet and Mr Green – appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to fill out their esports betting tab.

Here’s our regularly updated table of esports betting site reviews and guides, updated to 2020.

Is esports betting legal?

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 games.

Who regulates esports betting?

There is currently no central regulatory body for esports, although there are a number of leagues and entities – such as 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 Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority 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.
  • The entrance of traditional sportsbooks: 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 sight.

Similar to traditional sports leagues, esports also have independent commissions verifying fair play. The Esports Integrity Commission was founded in 2016 to investigate all cases of cheating, doping, and match-fixing. The best betting sites look to the ESIC for unclear cases at all esports competition levels, including Unikrn, GG.Bet and Luckbox. The ESIC’s partnerships include many esports tournament hosts themselves, like DreamHack, BLAST Pro Series and the Electronic Sports League. Governmental gambling commissions in the Isle of Man, Nevada, and the United Kingdom also work with ESIC to verify the integrity of pro esports matches.

The ESIC has doled out bans at the highest level of esports, and developers trust their investigations. The CS:GO Coach Bug scandal of 2020 was first revealed by the ESIC and resulted in almost 40 Counter-Strike coaches being banned from the sport. These names included the coaches of big teams like FaZe Clan, Natus Vincere, and Ninjas in Pyjamas. After these coaches were banned from any partner events, betting sites and tournament hosts worldwide copied the ESIC’s rulings.

Traditional sports bettors are especially concerned with the fairness of esports. It’s a new form of entertainment, and the lack of physicality can make unfair play less clear. However, esports matches are on the same level as the NFL or NBA when it comes to match integrity. With larger prize pools and more viewers than ever, there’s plenty of incentive for esports teams to stay on the straight-and-narrow. Thanks to the growth of the esports industry and the presence of integrity commissions, you can make esports bets with the same confidence as traditional sports bets.

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 bitcoin esports betting is possible. 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 esport 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

The growing popularity of competitive gaming makes it difficult to assess precisely how popular esports betting is. Any numbers that are researched are likely to be superseded almost immediately. However, there are a handful of significant figures we can look at to judge the size of esports betting.

HOW MUCH MONEY GOES TO ESPORTS BETS?

OddsMatrix reports that there are at least 500 million esports fans worldwide. Bettors only represent a portion of that number, but esports gamblers are high-rollers when it comes to significant events. OddsMatric also reports that up to 15 billion dollars will be wagered on esports matches in 2020.

HOW QUICKLY IS THE ESPORTS MARKET GROWING?

Viewership numbers for big esports events have exploded over the past few years, with totals that rival traditional sports leagues. Part of this is due to accessibility. Most esports tournaments are available to watch for free in HD, and many of the games themselves are free to play. The esports industry is more eager than ever to create betting opportunities.

NewZoo estimates that there were 443 million esports fans in 2019 and 495 million in 2020. This presents a year-over-year growth of over 10%. They also believe that the number of esports fans will increase to 646 million by 2023. This year alone, the esports market has generated over 1.1 billion dollars in revenue from media rights, sponsorships and merchandising.

WHAT REGION BETS THE MOST ON ESPORTS?

While esports betting is growing more and more popular worldwide, some regions have taken to it with more enthusiasm than others. This is due to different laws regarding betting and accessibility and the varying popularity of esports worldwide.

As far as popularity goes, Southeast Asia is the biggest market for competitive gaming. OddsMatrix estimates that 57% of total esports viewership comes from SEA, though other regions are also growing rapidly. NewZoo reports that Latin America and the Middle East are the fastest growing regions in terms of viewership, which will naturally lead to a higher volume of betting from those countries.

WHICH ESPORTS HAVE THE BIGGEST BETTING MARKETS?

There are several different video game genres in esports and not every bettor bets on every game. The most popular esports to bet on generally fall into two categories; sports simulation titles and the Big Three.

Sports simulations like NBA2K, FIFA, and Madden Football have grown increasingly popular in recent years. Sports simulation bets have increased by more than 3500% in 2020. Traditional sports bettors appreciate these titles for their similarity to real sports. They use the same ruleset and oftentimes the same controllable players as their respective sports leagues.

The Big Three refers to a trio of dominant esports titles that make up the core of the esports industry; Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, and League of Legends. These games make up almost 90% of non-sports simulation esports bets.

How can you place esports bets?

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 esports 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

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

  • The primary advantage of fantasy esports is that it’s readily available and generally considered legal in the majority of U.S. states. Case in point, Draftkings offers extensive coverage on League of Legends fantasy, including minor and major tournaments such as Fantasy LCS and LoL Worlds.
  • The downside: it’s not quite the same as placing a bet on the outcome of an esports match, and there aren’t many options for playing fantasy esports.

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Betting on streamers

Most gamers will enjoy watching streamers on channels like Twitch. But did you know that you can also bet on streamers? Recently we have seen a growing number of esports betting sites feature some streamer betting options, and it looks like this could become a big new trend in esports betting.

But how does betting on streamers actually work? Simply put, an esports betting site would have live streams embedded on their websites, and they would serve up a constantly changing selection of odds for you to wager on. If you go to an esports betting site like GG.Bet, you will get a good idea of how streamer betting works.

The great thing about betting on streamers is the fact that it isn’t limited to being focused on the big esports tournaments. This means that you should always be able to find some decent streamer betting odds to wager on. Sites like GG.Bet state that their streamer betting service serves up fresh odds every 90 seconds.

Betting on streamers also has the potential of allowing you to wager on a greater amount of esports. Rather than only being able to bet on the big team-based esports such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you should have the freedom to bet on streamers playing popular new titles like Fornite and Apex Legends.

This doesn’t mean that we will see the end of traditional esports betting on massive tournaments. There will always be gaming fans who want to bet in the most famous esports teams, but betting on streamers adds an extra dimension to how you can bet on esports. So if you are ever waiting for a big esports tournament to kick-off, be sure to try some streamer betting.

Item & skin esports bets

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 the 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 is almost no regulation and little way to know that the games you’re playing are fair 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.

A recent crackdown by Valve on skin betting sites has left the future of the vertical in question. Read about some alternatives to CS:GO skin gambling sites.

Social esports 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.