The esports market has seen an enormous level of growth over the past 5 years; global viewership numbers have increased from 204m in 2014 to 380m in 2018, with industry revenues reaching well into the billions. It is no surprise then, that esports betting has also seen a phenomenal level of growth; there are now over 100 established esport betting sites on the market, and wagering is expected to reach $23.5b by the end of 2020. The opportunity to bet on esports has never been so great, but with so many options to choose from, and so many potential pitfalls to avoid, where do hopeful bettors even begin?
This guide to esports betting sites and bookmakers will help new players get up to speed with the do’s and don’ts of esports betting, how to bag a bonus, picking good odds and betting on the markets that matter.
While there are a number of overlaps between esports betting and traditional sports betting, the two markets have grown in separate threads – “endemic” and “non-endemic”. On the one hand there are esports betting sites which are built from the ground up to focus on esports, and on the other there are traditional sportsbooks that have retrospectively added esports markets. The differences are important as will be discussed later in this guide.
Hybrid Esports Betting Sites
Major sportsbooks like Bet365 and NetBet who dominate traditional sports betting markets have cottoned on to the rapidly growing esports betting sector. As a result, traditional sportsbooks like these have recently added esports to their offering, providing a destination for their existing user-base to bet on these markets without risking them exiting the platform entirely. These “hybrid” sportsbooks which offer both sports and esports betting vary in their quality – some have integrated esports as a major facet of their platform (Betway being a leading example of this), while others have simply “tagged on” these new markets in a hope to placate their users. Typically however, a hybrid esports betting site will offer only the top tier esports games and events with just a handful of markets for each match.
For those looking for a truly gamer-focused experience, signing up to an esports-first sportsbook may be the best route. These esports-first betting sites are built for gamers, with traditional sports markets – if any – being offered on the side. Sportsbooks like these are typically far more in tune with their player base, offering bonuses and reward systems to match a gamer’s interests and – more importantly – creating niche markets for both top tier and lower tier esports. Players at an esports-first bookmaker will be able to bet on not only the major titles such as CS:GO and League of Legends, but minor titles such as Vainglory, World Of Tanks and Warcraft III.
Going beyond esports-first betting sites are skins betting platforms – bookmakers which allow players to make deposits using their Steam skins. These deposited skins have their value converted to cash and added to the player’s balance, allowing them to bet on the platform. This type of betting is a different approach to the roulette style betting seen by the likes of CSGO Lotto, where users were not betting on esports but instead placing their skins on the roulette wheel in the hope of a win. Following a crack-down by Valve on “Skins betting”, and the general uncertainty around its regulatory status, the opportunity to bet skins safely has dwindled – however this aspect is likely to see a resurgence once the legal framework is in place to support such a deposit method – should players demand it.
Not all esports betting sites offer the same betting markets. A betting market is essentially the outcome that you’re betting on; are you placing a bet on the “match winner”, “tournament winner” or “tournament finalist”? Betting markets range from the simple match winner bets through to more complex ones with accumulators that can be built around any market of a player’s choice. Here are some of the more interesting betting markets that a player can expect to find when betting on any of the top tier games. Typically speaking, you are more likely to find niche markets at the esports-first betting sites than the hybrid bookmakers.
CS:GO Betting Markets
- Map Winner
- Knife Round Winner
- First Kill
- Total Rounds (Over/Under)
Dota 2 Betting Markets
- First Blood
- Team To Slay First Roshan
- Team To Destroy First Tower
- Team To Destroy First Barracks
League of Legends Betting Markets
- First Blood
- First To Reach 10 Kills
- Team To Destroy The 1st Inhibitorr
- Team To Slay The 1st Baron
These are just some of the many markets on offer at these esports. As the industry expands, it is very like that even more unique ways to bet on esports will be uncovered.
A new player to the esports betting scene may find the appeal of an esports-first betting site too hard to ignore. However, for those looking to take an edge (which is all of us!), it may be advisable to reconsider. With esports betting and sports betting generally, it is the bookmaker who sets the odds and it is in the player’s interest to bet against the bookmaker with the least market knowledge. With this in mind, it is often found that those traditional sportsbooks who have simply “tagged on” esports markets may be the best platforms to take an edge against. There have been two recent examples that could not better highlight this opportunity:
League of Legends Worlds 2017
When the League of Legends Worlds tournament began in September 2017, an aspect of the meta had changed that caught many bookmakers by surprise. Prior to this tournament, a typical League of Legends match would last 40+ minutes, however some updates to the gameplay favored shorter match times, bringing the average duration of each match down to roughly 20-30 minutes. With the shorter game time meant less Barons Slain – a popular market for League of Legends bettors. As a result, a number of sportsbooks were left offering more than generous odds on -1.5 Barons Slain per map, leading to some extremely lucrative accumulators.
FACEIT Major 2018 Main Qualifier
During the qualifying rounds of the FACEIT Major 2018, Space Soldiers player Engin “ngiN” Kor announced on Twitter that he was not able to attend the event due to a UK visa issue. As a result, the Space Soldiers’ coach had to fill the empty seat – a huge blow to the team’s chances of progressing in this highly competitive tournament. However, this major setback was not picked up for several hours, leading to a period of very favorable odds for players betting against the Turkish side.
Esports-first betting sites are more likely to be in-tune with the competitive scene and therefore will be quicker to alter odds when stories like these emerge. It may well be easier to find an edge at some of the lesser esports-focused platforms.
Comparing Esports Betting Sites
There is no easier way to find the best odds for betting on a particular match than to compare odds between bookmakers. Esports betting markets will often have odds that vary across sportsbooks, however esports betting portals like SickOdds make it easy to find the best odds across any matchup. Whether it’s in-play odds or upcoming match winner odds, being able to compare potential winnings across a dozen or more esports betting sites makes the decision on where to bet a lot easier. Of course, there is more to take into account than simply match odds, but this should certainly play a factor in any new player’s decision on where to bet.
One of the biggest draws for new players is the bonus on offer at a particular esports betting site. While nearly every sportsbook will offer new players a welcome bonus, not all bonuses are equal and there may well be a catch hidden in the terms and conditions. Before committing your first deposit to a particular sportsbook based on a lucrative-sounding offer, consider reading the terms first, particularly when it comes to these key clauses:
- Wagering Requirements – every bonus will come with a wagering requirement; this is a multiplier of your deposit + bonus that must be wagered before any bonus winnings can be withdrawn. For casinos this wagering requirement is typically 40x or more, whereas sportsbooks will tend to offer somewhere between 3x and 10x. The lower the wager requirement, the more chance you have of collecting that bonus!
- Minimum Odds – in order to avoid paying out too easily, esports betting sites will include a minimum odds clause, stating that only bets made with odds above X will contribute to your wager requirement. Minimum odds can be as low as 1.5, however it is not uncommon to find minimum odds of 2.0 or more. Not a problem for the underdog bettor, but still worth avoiding bonuses who demand unfavorable odds!
- Max Winnings – maximum winnings are typically only applied to no deposit bonuses like free bets or risk free bets. This clause is in place to avoid the bookmaker giving away $5 and having a player turn it into $1,000 over the course of a few days. Free money is still free money, but if the maximum winnings limit is set too low then you may want to look elsewhere.
It is likely that other clauses will also be attached to your chosen esports bonus, so it’s always worth reviewing the terms and conditions. Signing up for a bonus with your eyes open will help to avoid disappointment and frustration when it comes to attempting a withdrawal.
Unique Bonuses & Rewards
Esports betting appeals largely to esports players, and with so many esports players in-tune with loot boxes and crate openings, it is hardly surprising that this system of luck is being transferred across to sportsbook reward programs. Players who choose to play at an esports-first betting site may find a radically different implementation of rewards that would never have been considered at a traditional sportsbook. Betting sites like Rivalry offer a unique VIP system with XP earned through the unlocking and completion of missions. Newly launched BetOnBit have also taken an entirely new approach, introducing a Character screen and allowing players to collect items in an inventory and stash as well as upgrading status points through choices made on each bet.
To recap, when looking for an esports betting site a player should be considering the type of betting site (esports-first or hybrid and the merits/drawbacks of each), available betting markets, competitive match odds and the welcome bonuses available. With these properties determined, it then becomes easy to pick a betting site that pays with not only a better edge for the player but a better user experience too. There are a whole host of betting sites to choose from, so spending a few minutes researching some of the very best in the market is worth the time. And remember, players can always sign up to more than one sportsbook, so regularly reviewing your choice of platform can pay dividends!
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