Yesterday, IGB held a webinar about the role of esports in the land-based betting sector. After the pandemic hit and all major sporting events shut down, the only game in town for sports betting fans was esports. Now that the world is opening back up and casinos and betting shops are open to the public, will esports maintain the growth that they have seen in the past year?
The panelists, Ian Smith (Commissioner of the Esports Integrity Commission), Seth Schorr (CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and the Chairman of Downtown Grand), and Jennifer Roberts (General Counsel at WynnBET), spoke about the issues facing operators that want to bring esports into the land-based betting sector and what they need to do to attract esports fans to places like Las Vegas.
The difference between esports and traditional sports betting
Seth Schorr began by talking about what sets esports apart from traditional sports and how land-based betting operators can do to take advantage of that.
“What is interesting about esports compared to other sports… and what is so fun for an operator that likes to create programmatic events for its guests. Esports is really all encompassing you can look at it like traditional sports, you can have live in-person events no different than a Golden Nights event, you can have events where esports guests can play against each other on the casino floor and against people at home. You can’t do that with traditional sports, there’s no one playing hockey on the casino floor.”
It is interesting to think about the possibility of interactive esports events in land-based casinos, but the issue seems to be that this sort of thing could be done anywhere, why would esports fans want to travel to Las Vegas when something like this could be held at any city in the US?
Issues with bringing esports to the land-based betting sector
Issues could arise from the perceived young age of the average esports fan, especially for land-based US casinos that may restrict certain age groups from attending events on the casino floor. Seth Schorr had a response to this claim:
“This is a debate that I have had with my team and within the industry, if we come to conclusion that this audience is 19 years old then this webinar might as well end. There is a reality that there is a theory that the gamer doesn’t age out, that the gamer that sits at home and watches Twitch at age 16, 19, at the age of 25 he or she will be betting on esports. If that turns out not be the case, well then this would be the wrong exercise.”
They are betting on the average esports fan continuing their support well into the age when they can legally bet. This assumption would certainly help them in the long run for audience and player base retention.
Esports bettors in Las Vegas and the demand for demand
Jennifer Roberts is the General Counsel for WynnBET, the online betting arm of the Wynn Casino Empire, she spoke about the importance of bettors coming to Las Vegas:
“We are connected to a brick-and-mortar casino … it carries a brand and an expectation … so we want to carry that out through our online offerings.”
“As it relates to esports … the challenge is ‘do you have the demand and does that demand stem from the audience to the operators who would feel pressure to meet the demands of the consumer? Would they be equipped to go to the regulator and say this is something we want to see and attract our customers and get the proper regulations?’ You need the consumer demand; the operators need to understand it and it needs to get into the hands of the regulators.”
This is a huge issue for land-based esports betting, especially in Las Vegas. In order to be able to offer odds on an esports event, operators need to receive an event-by-event approval from the Gaming Control Board.
How do you generate the demand and what happens when you fail
In response, Seth Schorr spoke from his position as the Chairman of the Downtown Grand:
“We have to create the demand. If operators don’t create the demand, I don’t know that it happens organically. In my opinion, operators are looking to be more creative and have a more diverse offering especially when it doesn’t take that much effort or capital to offer lines on new events.”
The idea of creating the demand for esports at land-based casinos is very important, in the webinar we got a chance to hear about a recent failure at garnering a gaming audience at the Downtown Grand:
“Metarama was a very large-scale festival part musical, part gaming, part art. We had partnerships with Blizzard, Riot, professional teams, musical acts. Imagine Dragons were going to be playing League of Legends. It was a really well curated festival. … We couldn’t sell a ticket. It was terrible, it was that marketing piece that we failed, it was a big fat F. We cancelled it and we had to throw away millions of dollars. If MGM or Caesars decide to invest in esports or have tournaments on-site, it’s a long path to create that customer base. That can be done online and that is where we failed.”
Land-based operators have a long way to go before they catch up to the very online esports fanbase. You can offer as many esports betting options as you want but as long as you fail to advertise and create an online presence you will never grow your customer base.
The future of esports betting
They finished on what they believe will be the future for land-based esports betting in the US. They are focused on the growth of their markets and offering plenty of options for bettors.
“I believe that the gamer audience will transition to betting far quicker than the traditional sports audience. … The gaming community is already an awful lot like betting in my opinion. There is not a big leap.”
“The new style of betting that we adopted in North America that originated in Europe, prop betting, in-play betting that is the type of betting that the gamer wants, no question. I’ll bet my reputation on it, the average gamer does not want to make one single pre-game bet and wait for the outcome.”