EveryMatrix’s Malte Hegeler on FIFA and NBA’s rise in esports betting

It has become very clear that esports betting is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with esports transitioning to online play while traditional sports have had to postpone or cancel plans. This means there’s a severe drought for bettors, but esports has stepped up – specifically when it comes to games that simulate sports such as football and basketball. 

To get more insight into the changing tides of betting and to see the precise areas of impact from COVID-19, Esports Insider spoke with ​Malte Hegeler, Head of Product Development Sportsbook at EveryMatrix. Before assessing exactly how esports has stepped up, it’s important to know where competitive gaming stood prior to the pandemic. Only then can we really assess the growth that it has seen when it comes to betting.

NBA 2K League Panera Bread
Photo credit: NBA 2K League

“Before COVID-19, we had a good esports offering in terms of the number of events and markets we could offer, though the overall turnover share within our overall sportsbook was small,” Hegeler explained. “It was in the top 10, but if a sport is in positions 8 to 10 then that means it’s probably a turnover of about one percent. Football, tennis, and basketball normally accumulate between 85 to 90 percent.” 

“So, while being in the top 10 was a good thing for esports, it wasn’t quite breaking the norm,” he continued. “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was the most successful, followed by League of Legends and then Dota 2.” 

Now we’ve established the previous status quo of betting when it comes to traditional sports and esports, it’s worth looking into how that has changed just a few weeks into cancellations, postponements, and other alterations to sporting events. 

“When COVID-19 hit the industry, everything changed for us within two weeks,” said Hegeler. “The situation isn’t ideal and it’s a sad circumstance, but the changing demand for esports was an exciting time for us in the product team at EveryMatrix.”

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“CS:GO had just over 50 percent of all esports turnover – now it’s down to roughly 14 percent,” he noted. “It’s still important but now it’s almost on the same level as NBA 2K. FIFA alone now has 70 percent of all esports turnover, coming from basically nothing” 

It may not surprise some people that CS:GO was top of the pack when it comes to esports, but why has it achieved such prominence when there are so many competitive titles? As Hegeler went on to explain, it’s the simplicity of the franchise that appeals to bettors – especially in the current landscape where customers are looking for a replacement to their favourite sports. 

“If you’re coming from football, tennis, or basketball, and you have the choice to bet on League of Legends or CS:GO, you will likely choose CS:GO as it’s much easier to understand,” he said. “Even the bet types for League of Legends or other MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) titles aren’t always easy to grasp, that’s why CS:GO was the leading title for so long.”

“FIFA and NBA 2K are meeting our expectations, and CS:GO profited from this sports crisis” Hegeler continued. “We have around 19 esports in our offering but most traditional bettors aren’t really betting on many of them. Hopefully this will change in the next 6 months. I still have some hope for Rocket League as it’s quite easy to understand and is a variation of football.”

With FIFA and NBA 2K witnessing massive growth and making up much of the turnover share, one has to wonder if this is sustainable once traditional sports are back in full force and esports isn’t one of the few entertainment products running. 

“One thing that is absolutely clear is that esports is too big to fail; there are hundreds of millions of players worldwide and they’re getting older,” he said. “There’s a reason that CS:GO has been the most successful title, it’s the been in the market for the longest time and players have grown with the Counter-Strike franchise from being young teenagers. They now have the money to invest in betting. That will happen for Rainbow Six Siege, League of Legends, and Dota 2 too.”

“The turnover share for esports will go down when basketball, football, and other sports leagues will make their comeback, but it will not fall down to anywhere close to where it was before COVID-19” Hegeler predicted.

Esports titles offered by EveryMatrix
Image credit: EveryMatrix

Esports making be a bigger piece of the pie now for the bookmakers that already had markets for the video games, but are there an influx of new bookies adding it to their offerings in an attempt to salvage some revenue? EveryMatrix services dozens of clients in the space and has noticed a significant change.

“The majority of our clients have a traditional betting setup. Esports wasn’t really relevant, making up one percent of the total turnover,” Hegeler explained. “Now it is over 40 percent, with 85 percent of that coming solely from FIFA and NBA 2K. We will be adding hockey and tennis esports in the near future, too.” 

“We reacted very quickly in adding esports and we gave our feed clients quite significant discounts,” he continued. “We’ve just integrated​ Abios as an esports event statistic provider and its esports widgets to further improve our offering.” 

Many are saying that, since this is esports’ time to shine, that it’s finally going to reach the mainstream relevancy and adopting that those in the industry have been waiting for. Others, however, believe it’s a flash in the pan and esports will, once again, be the underdog. If you ask Hegeler, it depends on where you look. 

“Commercially, esports betting is bigger in some countries than others,” he said. “In Denmark, for example, the prime minister actively supports Astralis in CS:GO and the turnover there is significant. In Asia, esports betting is absolutely established, but in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and North America, it’s not. Though I believe that even after COVID-19, the sports-related titles and CS:GO will have a significant share of turnover.”

This unique situation the world has found itself in is forcing companies in effectively every industry to try new things and innovate. With a drought in markets to offer punters, bookmakers have had to broaden horizons to provide options for customers – this could have lasting effects on the betting landscape.

“Companies are thinking outside of the box since the current sports situation complicated everything,” said Hegeler. “I’ve seen a high amount of motivation within my team as it has given us a new focus and new areas to educate ourselves in. We have a lot of people who are interested in esports and we’re taking their input and expertise into consideration.”

“Over the last few years, I’ve noticed traditional bookmakers be reluctant about esports because it’s new,” he continued. “It’s also a generational thing, if you’re in your 40s or 50s and you’ve been in the industry for decades, you’ll be used to football, cricket, basketball, tennis, and volleyball, so there is a certain resistance to change which is natural.”

The current state of affairs certainly forced reluctant bookmakers’ hand in trying some new and adopting esports, perhaps helping to shift the perception of its status as a sport and as entertainment along the way. While nobody can be sure of what’s in store for the future, Hegeler has no doubt that esports betting has stepped up and is here to stay.


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