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Understanding where esports betting is going in the US

| By iGB Editorial Team
James Brightman, senior strategist at Interpret, provides a perspective on the company’s latest esports research and his take on esports betting in the US.

What should betting operators take away from your company’s findings?

Betting operators should recognise that they have a genuine opportunity to expand their business beyond traditional sports. Esports fans are every bit as passionate as their regular sports counterparts and represent a highly appealing demographic for influential brands. This is why we’re now seeing betting firms getting into the content creation side of the business as well. Betway created its content creation team in Brazil. 

In Canada, Luckbox has hired a head of content to capitalise on the streaming opportunities in the space. Pinnacle is running its own CS:GO tournament, which is effectively more content creation. The pandemic has bled revenues from both the gambling and esports industries over the last year. Still, by banding together, they’re creating a synergistic relationship that should elevate both businesses over the long term.

Do you think esports betting will be more relevant in the US due to more state legislation or due to a greater number of people becoming fans of the esports?

I think you partially answered your own question. Thus far, we’ve seen esports betting legalised in Nevada, Colorado, New Jersey, Tennessee, Washington, Virginia and West Virginia. As more lawmakers in various states introduce legislation to allow for esports betting, we’re likely to see further betting services pop up to capitalise on this opportunity. It’s somewhat analogous to states where marijuana has been legalised – Colorado and states that permit those sales have seen a rise in cannabis-based businesses. 

At the same time, the esports audience is absolutely growing. Interpret data shows that in 2020, the esports viewing audience in the US grew from 12% of the population at the start of the year to 19% by the end – meaning nearly one in five Americans now watches esports. As this audience grows, gambling increases are likely to follow.

Is it the right time for betting operators to engage in US esports betting if they haven’t already?

The short answer? Yes. The intersection of gambling and esports is still quite nascent. We only just saw the first-ever dedicated sportsbook for esports launch, initiated by Las Vegas gambling firm GameCo in partnership with US Bookmaking and Sky Ute Casino Resort. There’s still time for betting operators to get involved and plant their flag, so to speak. Getting into esports now will allow operators to benefit as the viewership numbers continue to rise, leading to more awareness for betting companies. 

We’ve already seen numerous firms sponsoring esports teams and tournaments to bolster their esports credentials. Keep in mind that key stakeholders in the esports industry will be watching closely, as any match-fixing scandals tied to betting could torpedo the industry, but initiatives to ensure integrity are helping (the Esports Integrity Commission will oversee the aforementioned sportsbook, for example).

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