Traditional, Niche Sports Books Bullish On Future Of eSports Betting

Bullish eSports

The industry for eSports betting is growing quickly, with more than 10 traditional sports books offering wagering along with several eSports-centric sites also cropping up and gaining traction.

Executives at eSports betting sites that ESB contacted or that talked to other sources continually expressed optimism about the future and growth of the vertical. Perhaps that’s not surprising, coming from people inside the industry, but some offered reasons for their stances.

How many people are betting, and how many bets

Pinnacle, one of the first movers in the eSports betting space and one of the biggest in terms of marketshare, has seen huge growth in the past five years.

“The level of volume traded has pretty much doubled every year since we began dealing in 2010, and based on current activity this looks set to continue,” Pinnacle head of sportsbook Marco Blume told eGaming Review. “We took our one millionth bet in December 2014, and expect to get to two million much faster.”

A representative for another traditional book, William Hill, also projected growth in the eSports vertical.

“What we take will grow exponentially as people become more aware of the product – up to 4x growth in 12 month’s time would be the upper limit of our projections,” the rep said.

Kevin Bradley, sports book manager at bovada, said response has outpaced their expectations after just a few months of operation in what he has termed a “trial period.”

“The response has been great and we have seen daily growth in handle and have expanded our offering and allow parlays now,” Bradley said.

The website eGamingBets.com told ESB that it has “more than 400,000 registered users.”

How much will they bet?

For The International in Dota 2 that took place earlier this month, at least a few sports books taking bets on the matches upped the ante. Both Pinnacle and eGamingBets said they would take wagers of up to $100,000 based on the final of The International.

Unikrn, a U.S.-based eSports betting site (that doesn’t take bets from Americans) told the San Francisco Chronicle that some of “its players are wagering as much as $40,000 a month.”

William Hill offered last month that it has taken 13,000 eSports bets in 2015 over the course of nearly 900 matches offered, with a turnover of £225,000.

Betway’s Marketing Director Anthony Werkman talked about his site’s success with the vertical:

“Betting on eSports is huge and will only continue to grow,” Werkman told SBC News. “We’ve already taken high four figure bets on everything from CS:GO and Dota 2 to League of Legends.”

eSports compared with traditional sports?

Certainly eSports betting isn’t rivaling most of the traditional sports in terms of wagering, at least not yet. But it is definitely moving the needle at many books:

Benjie Levy is president and COO of theScore, Inc., which isn’t a sports betting company but is a sports media business. His company launched eSports coverage this spring, and he said he has “been very pleased with how everything has rolled out.”

Levy said he believes eSports betting will take off as “a natural extension of sports,” and he sees “no difference” between sports and eSports on that point.

In terms of crossover from traditional sports, Levy said that it’s been “more than expected,” but admits that he “doesn’t know if there’s a huge amount of crossover” between eSports fans and traditional sports fans.  He notes that there’s strong anecdotal evidence of crossover; in fact, theScore became involved in eSports at the suggestion of several members of the existing team on the traditional sports side.

At William Hill, where eSports is a relatively new segment, a rep said it is on par with “something like Aussie Rules or Moto GP.” Bovada’s Bradley said eSports betting “is still not on the scale of any major sport but is significant enough that we have 3-4 guys watching it all the time.”

What’s planned next for eSports books?

Nearly everyone in the sports betting industry seems excited for the possibilities of eSports betting. Just this week, Betway launched a dedicated eSports portal, signaling its designs on the market.

If sports books aren’t considering ramping up their eSports offerings now, it seems likely they will in the near future.

“At the moment, we are merely dipping our toes,” a William Hill rep said. “There are plans to expand the product in line with the growth of the sport.”

Photo by Ian Lee used under license CC BY 2.0.

Dustin Gouker

About

Dustin Gouker has worked for more than 15 years in the world of sports journalism, with stops at the Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. An ardent lifelong poker player, Dustin also writes about the rapidly growing DFS industry at LegalSportsReport.com.