Oddspedia: Trends and threats in the esports betting industry

Bearing the slogan ‘it’s all about sports’, Oddspedia writes for Esports Insider to provide its own insights regarding the trends and threats that emerged with the rise of esports in 2020.

Photo Credit: Oddspedia

The events of 2020 sent the world into a frenzy, affecting a multitude of industries. The past year has been especially tumultuous for the gambling industry, considering the impact the coronavirus pandemic had on sports betting. 

With sports events being cancelled across the globe, the betting industry turned to esports in order to dampen the effects of the pandemic. For esports, the unusual circumstances created an opportunity to reach new audiences, including those it might not have otherwise reached at all. 

Ultimately, esports turned out to be more than an emergency solution and the numbers started backing it up. A recent survey by media company ProdegeMR reported that more than 22 percent of gamblers that never bet on esports are now considering it, while 32 percent of esports bettors have actively explored new products to bet on. 

Showing significant growth, the report also suggested that esports betting turnover is projected to surge past $14bn (£10.4bn) this year. These values have doubled, compared to $7bn (£5.2bn) last year. The recent growth of esports betting should also help drive the global esports market to reach a value of $3bn (£2.23bn) by 2025.

The immense growth of esports during the pandemic also, unsurprisingly, accelerated the development of the esports betting sector. Instead of contemplating whether or not to offer esports at all, most betting companies started looking for the best ways to do it. As a result, B2B collaborations began to boom. In the process of replacing traditional sports and increasing the betting volume, sportsbooks added more competitive esports events in their portfolio and also had to secure data providers with wider coverage. 

 Oddspedia.com has reported prior that the number of events available in the esports betting programme increased rapidly, from 3,000 events available in July 2019 to over 50,000 events in July 2020. Thanks to increased exposure and cross-selling to traditional sports bettors, simulation sports titles such as FIFA or NBA 2K saw record growth and betting activity.  

FIFA eWorld Cup London
The FIFA eWorld Cup London, Image Credit: FIFA

Yordan Spasov, Project Manager at Oddspedia, commented: “The interest in FIFA and NBA 2K events exploded back in April. What we saw was esports related keywords’ volume raising early in the pandemic.

“From obscure and niche games, FIFA and NBA 2K started to attract as many visitors as titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2 or League of Legends. There was even a time where FIFA 20 Champions League events were one of the most visited pages on the site.”

When asked about which Oddspedia esports features have become user favourites, Yordan replied:  “Our users are enjoying the esports odds comparison feature we offer. They are able to get a lot of value by taking the best lines, since there are some serious discrepancies in the odds offered on esports events.  

“Another one is a geolocation feature that delivers personalized content and helps users find only relevant betting sites based on their location. We also saw Oddspedia’s Widgets being in high demand for esports, as publishers enhanced their digital content with esports real-time data via our ready-to-use solution.”

Even with major sports back on schedule, the growth of esports betting is expected to continue, as projections account for a 10 percent increase in 2021. Current trends will carry on and the popularity of esports betting should only escalate. There is a number of reasons for this. 

First of all, social distancing is a driving factor contributing to higher engagement, which means increased viewership numbers from streaming platforms and content creators are producing at a higher rate.  

Secondly, quick emerging sponsorships and investments, not only between companies within the industry but also from other sectors, are a driving power essential for industry growth.

Lastly, betting operators are constantly improving their products to cater to target audiences and build brand loyalty. As a result, more betting markets are being offered, the limits are higher and the inplay solution itself went from 50 percent uptime to 90 percent. Esports coverage now as well includes some of the lower-tier competitions and less popular esports titles.

Despite the effect the pandemic had on esports betting-wise, it exposed some critical threats as well. The biggest one by far is integrity. There have always been issues with integrity in esports, although right now it’s more serious than ever. Match-fixing is rampant and the lack of proper anti-fraud and cheating mechanisms can seriously hinder the growth of the esports betting market. In order to preserve integrity in esports, actions such as setting regulations or naming overseeing committees need to be taken.

It may take some effort and collaboration from all kinds of stakeholders to research issues and various cases from betting companies, data providers, esports organisations, integrity commissions and event organisers, to game publishers. A recent deal between Activision Blizzard and Sportradar is a good example, as it institutes a comprehensive integrity programme for their Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues, similar to deals made by major traditional sports leagues in recent years. 

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Another concern regarding esports betting growth includes the general public’s lack of esports knowledge when betting. Most esports titles like Dota 2 or League of Legends are quite complex and can be hard to comprehend for the more casual audience. Betting markets are not easy to understand if one does not have a deeper knowledge of the game. Hence why bettors moved on esports that resemble traditional sports during the lockdown.

That being said, esports is a generational thing. Older generations are mostly known to follow traditional sports. However, this changes with younger generations, who are growing up exposed to competitive gaming and Twitch streaming and thus are becoming more engaged in esports than traditional sports.

As a result, esports is one of the hottest betting verticals right now and the impressive figures it generates are a testament to that. Further development of the esports betting product, working within a regulated framework and preserving integrity should be the stepping stones to esports becoming evermore of a global force to be reckoned with.  

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Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by Oddspedia