By Kenneth Williams
2021 is a big year for betting operators. The return of several traditional sports leagues promises industry growth, but the esports explosion of 2020 hasn’t completely settled down. According to Newzoo, the esports market finally blew past $1bn in revenue last year, a marker previously anticipated for 2022. The pandemic has pushed forward the esports space, but many operators wonder if the brand-new generational market is worth pursuing.
Esports has experienced a wave of recognition and legalisation across the world. The return to LAN play is a severely underestimated factor for their rebound. Here’s why 2021 is the best year to enter the esports betting space since the beginning of mainstream esports.
Why betting operators should be optimistic about esports betting in North America
The United States and Canada are two of the biggest markets for traditional sports betting. Both countries have a rich sports history, and the continent is blazing a trail for digital competition. Dozens of betting-related esports startups have emerged in the last year, giving operators more data options than ever before.
Prediction services are quickly gaining in popularity, and American companies are driving the market forward. TGS Esports has partnered with FansUnite to create a live prediction service offering special esports-oriented prizes like mechanical keyboards and wireless headsets. Even Fandom, the company that owns esports info repository Gamepedia, has announced a prediction platform. These systems are easy to implement and a great way of testing the waters, so expect even more from those companies in the future.
Betting giant Betway also announced its transition to the North American market in February of this year. The hybrid betting site has gone all-in on esports, leading innovative marketing efforts such as its Aim Challenge series and offering lines for as many games as it can. Betway’s success in Europe has enabled it to spread across the pond, an excellent sign for the esports betting scene’s longevity.
Why betting operators should be optimistic about esports betting in Europe
The old world, meanwhile, is still a hub for esports. Western Europe is the world capital of both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, so betting operators have plenty of motivation to offer lines. The investing scene for Euro esports betting has also warmed up to esports betting. In March, Isle of Man-licensed sportsbook Rivalry raised more than $20m in a funding round to further develop its PC and mobile platforms. European financial firms have been more conservative than their American counterparts, but they’re paying more attention now than ever.
Previous instances of match-fixing and cheating have raised valid concerns among both betting operators and the general public. Bookies, teams, sponsors and event organisers all want to mitigate cheating. The top-level of esports is the safest it’s ever been, largely thanks to the Esports Integrity Commission, a UK-based multi-title oversight committee fighting against fraudulent play. ESIC is open to agreements with betting companies, something commissioner Ian Smith greatly encourages. Their list of betting partners includes Parimatch, Cyber.bet, Loot.bet, Rivalry, Skrilla, Betway, Unikrn and more. Indeed, thanks to the European Esports Integrity Commission, esports betting is a safer endeavor for gaming fans and betting operators.