One of the more unexpected aspects of the eSports phenomenon that has seen millions of fans around the world tuning in to see the planet’s greatest gamers battling it out, has been the rise and rise of betting. From what started out as a side-issue to the contests, it has now grown to be a major money-spinner. By 2016 it was already at an impressive $5.5 billion but this year this figure is due to more than double to $12.9 billion.
The increase in activity has also been reflected by the number of places where fans can bet legally, OLBG’s page shows more than 80 sports betting sites or mobile betting apps accepting wagers legally across 12 states, and the number’s growing all the time. While it’s possible to bet on pretty much every eSport going, there are some favorite games where particular players or team shine. These include Counter Strike:Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota 2 and Fortnite Battle Royale.
Naturally, there are also video versions of actual sports that prove very popular and these include FIFA, the soccer game, and even NASCAR racing. So it comes down to the fact that if it’s a video game, it’ll feature somewhere in the eSports universe.
The major tournaments
Generally, it’s the major annual tournaments that tend to attract the biggest betting activity. At these, the world’s best players and teams battle it out for huge prize funds – the 2019 Fortnite World Cup gave out a total of $30 million in prizes, something that suddenly meant that eSports caught the eye of the mainstream media.
Other major tournaments include The International, organized by Valve Corporation to showcase their most popular game, DOTA 2, and the League of Legends World Championships, run by Riot Games with the same overall purpose. There are also many smaller tournaments but these are by far the biggest.
The bets that can be made
As you might expect, the nature of video games means that there are a variety of different wagers that can be made. The most basic of these is on who will be the outright winner of a particular game or tournament. There are also so-called handicap bets in which the underdog in any contest is given a certain number of points before the contest starts and the favorite has to overcome them by at least that number of points
With Over/Under bets the bookmakers set a figure to represent a particular number of achievements like kills in a game or stages won and bettors have to wager whether the final result will be over under this figure.
The nature of some games also lends them to the phenomenon known as skin betting. As the name suggests, it is betting to win new skins for one’s personal play and can be done in many sportsbooks or on a peer-to-peer basis. Incredibly, the betting on skins is due to hit $50 billion in revenue by 2022 with the major contributor likely to be Counter Strike:Global Offensive.
For some time now, fantasy leagues have been a major source of enjoyment for fans of traditional sports and now eSports have well and truly caught up. There are a number of leagues in which it’s possible to bet on hand-picked teams who score for achieving particular feats.
The permitted structure of these teams follows those of NFL or NBA fantasy leagues in that there is a certain budget permitted and filling a team with superstars is not permitted by the rules. Draft Kings, the original fantasy league operator, are now very active in the eSports arena showing how significant it has become.
Challenge betting, or head-to-head betting as it’s sometimes known, is a more informal method in which individual gamers challenge each other with simple bets. There are some websites that can arrange these contests and take a fee from the wager, but generally it’s an arrangement between players that can also take the form of skin betting. It’s generally something that’s restricted to the very best gamers otherwise it can tend to be a walkover for the most able.
Spotting the top players
In the relatively short time that eSports has been in existence, some clear champions have emerged, both in the form of individuals and teams. In the case of the former, the undisputed leader for League of Legends is Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok who can justly claim to be the first true eSports superstar. The 24 year old has career winnings of $1.3 million to date and has won the LoL World Championships no less than three times. His DOTA equivalent is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein who has been even more successful financially with earnings of $6.9 million.
Of the many teams out there, the ones to watch are Fnatic, Team Liquid and TI – arguably the best outfit in South Korea which is considered to be the true epicenter of eSports.
Looking to the future
Betting on eSports is set to grow exponentially as we move into the future and this is going to mean that the tournaments will get bigger and so will the prizes. There has even been talking of eSports becoming an Olympic event in the fullness of time. Admittedly, this won’t be for a few years yet – but there is every chance that one day we’ll be able to bet on a team or player carrying off an Olympic Gold. For many, that day can’t come soon enough.
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