There is no doubt that in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect across many different industries. In terms of the sports betting industry, the fact so many fixtures were wiped out for many months decimated the options available to punters. However, esports remained relatively unaffected by the pandemic and as such, esports betting has undergone a period of accelerated growth over the years.
This has meant companies have sought to refocus their attentions on the burgeoning esports betting industry, both in established regions where sports betting is already legal and also in those where it remains something of a grey area. The United States is one such place, with each state operating under its own laws and statutes in terms of online gambling, but one state, New Jersey, certainly seems keen to allow its sports betting operators to offer esports betting options to customers.
Repeal of PASPA
The repeal of PASPA has made many states re-evaluate what gambling opportunities they would like to offer and while the initial focus has been generally on casino gaming and sports betting, there is now renewed focus on esports betting. Nevada, for example, has already started to allow its citizens to bet on approved esports tournaments.
In New Jersey, Bi-partisan bill A637, which is colloquially referred to as the ‘esports betting bill’ is now passing through the senate, where New Jersey regulators will make their decision on whether to expand current gambling laws to include esports betting.
Given the importance of esports betting throughout 2020 and the boom the industry is undergoing, it is expected that the state will allow esports betting to be permitted, which in turn could become another source of revenue for the Covid-19 hit state.
It also follows on from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) stating its aims back in September, for the state to become a hub for esports and esports betting across the United States.
How important was esports betting for the US betting industry in 2020?
In truth, New Jersey’s decision is a relatively easy one for lawmakers to make. Estimates suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic cost US sports betting operators millions in the key springtime market, with a host of sports tournaments cancelled or postponed until later in the year.
At the same time, revenues on esports markets climbed massively as punters sought something else to bet on. One report from EveryMatrix highlighted that there was a 40% increase in esports betting across the US in April 2020.
Nevada was quick to grasp the nettle and legalise esports betting in the state earlier on this year. The benefit to the state was quickly evident in the recouping of tax revenue that had been lost due to a lack of sports betting at that time. New Jersey it seems is now set to follow suit.
However, New Jersey is not the only state to be reviewing what it offers to its citizens online. Punters in Michigan are set to be allowed to bet on sports (and likely esports) from early 2020 once one of the state’s three commercial casinos and one of the 23 tribal casinos earn their operator licenses. Indiana and Pennsylvania are two states that have already done likewise.
The picture of sports and esports betting in the United States is changing and whether Covid-19 has accelerated that or not, the good news for citizens in states like New Jersey and Michigan is that sports and esports betting could well be ready to enjoy from early 2021.