GG.BET: Esports winter, the betting market and 2024 plans 

GG.BET esports 2024
Image credit: GG.BET

Last year saw the esports industry undergo a period of course corrections, consolidations and harsh realities, a trend that is seemingly continuing in 2024. 

How did these economic climate changes affect one of the industry’s most lucrative and prosperous sectors — the betting realm? 

Last year saw the scene lose two prominent esports-focused bookmakers in Luckbox and unikrn. However, endemic bookmakers’ continued investment in the scene didn’t slow down, particularly with gambling companies like GG.BET, Thunderpick and Pinnacle launching unique events and tournaments, a trend that looks set to continue as 2024 ploughs on.

ESI London 2024

Esports Insider talked to the CEO’s of GG.BET brands in the UK and Ukraine, Sergii Mishchenko and Dmytro Voshkarin, to discuss the esports betting climate and how the company is using 2023’s milestones to push ahead this year. 

When asked about the ‘esports winter’ that has taken hold of the sector, Mishchenko, the CEO of GGBET UK, highlighted that the esports market has been affected by a variety of factors, both externally (global macro-economic struggles and sponsor pullbacks) and internally (high costs for staff upkeep). However, he is very bullish about bookmakers in esports.

“Betting companies’ interest in and influence over esports is only growing,” he said. “Betting companies have a far better understanding of the industry and are heavily invested in developing disciplines that will offer the maximum possibilities for betting.”

At its core, the continued rise of esports betting is dependent on the scene’s popularity and its customers. Whilst Dota 2 and Counter-Strike failed to match peak viewing figures of previous years in 2023, other titles such as League of Legends, VALORANT, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Call of Duty are breaking records in their disciplines. 

“The esports audience is still showing growth overall. And people are betting more, too,” highlighted Mishchenko. “In 2023, the amount bet on esports disciplines at GG.BET grew by 27% compared with 2022. We’re expecting even bigger growth in 2024.”

Sergii Mishchenko, CEO of GGBET UK
Sergii Mishchenko, CEO of GGBET UK. Image credit: GG.BET, OHishiapply, Shutterstock

Despite GG.BET’s growth, and expansion into other markets, the company did learn a few lessons in 2023 to help navigate what are tumultuous waters. One of its main takeaways: “Taking initiative when it comes to shaping new experiences and values for the community,” highlighted GGBET UA’s CEO Dmytro Voshkarin.

He continued: “We’ve realised that taking initiatives that extend beyond the product can attract more attention and capture viewers’ interest.”

Perhaps some of GG.BET’s biggest undertakings of 2023, outside of bolstering its own betting product, were its activations with fellow partners Team Vitality and NAVI. GG.BET created a show match between the two Counter-Strike rosters, and organised branded meet and greets for fans of the organisations — popular activations that promoted the brand in authentic ways that went further than most sponsorships.

For this year, it seems that a similar mindset is being taken when it comes to activations, albeit with a new partner joining the fold in tournament organiser BLAST Premier. “GG.BET will assist with organising both online and offline activities as part of its partnership with BLAST Premier. We’ve analysed how the last few events went, and now we’re working on new ideas at a new level,” said Voshkarin.

Match of LeGGends
Aleksib (NAVI) and ZywOo (Team Vitality) play in mixed team during Match of LeGGends, 2023. Image credit: GG.BET

Another significant change in GG.BET’s operations have already been alluded to throughout the article —  the bookmaker has entered both the UK and Ukrainian (UA) betting markets.

“GG.BET is striving to become the best esports betting brand, and entering the UK market is a key step in putting this ambitious plan into action,” emphasised Mishchenko. He also added that entering the UK market has come with its own challenges, notably the fact that it is a competitive betting market that has customers who tend to stay faithful to their long-term sports. 

Mishchenko added: “GG.BET is taking on the task of introducing them to new games which can offer an equally exciting experience and, quite possibly, broaden this long tradition with regular esports betting.”

Meanwhile, GG.BET’s move into the Ukrainian market felt like a natural fit, with Voshkarin noting that the brand was founded in Europe in 2016 by a team of staff from the country. From a marketing perspective, entry into this market also makes sense given GG.BET’s longstanding partnership with NAVI, a relationship that is now three years strong. 

Voshkarin also stated that GG.BET’s entry and presence in Ukraine late last year, has allowed the company to support Ukraine during its ongoing war with Russia. “In 2023, GGBET LLC contributed 146.7m hryvnia (~£3.02m) to the Ukrainian economy by way of fees for betting activity and online casino licences”, he claimed.

Priorities will now turn to cementing its position even further in these two markets, alongside Curacao and Malta, two other licences that GG.BET owns. However, this doesn’t mean that further expansion is off the table. “It’s currently too early to make any concrete statements, but it goes without saying that we’ll continue to expand GG.BET’s brand presence in future,” teased Mishchenko.

Dmytro Voshkarin, CEO of GGBET UA
Dmytro Voshkarin, CEO of GGBET UA. Image credit: GG.BET, OHishiapply, Shutterstock

Analysing trends in esports is incredibly important. Catching trends before they take off and adopting practices early could help propel a business into new revenue opportunities. On the more endemic side of the esports industry, this is seen by teams and organisations hiring third-party companies to help track the performance of their partnerships, helping identify where their sponsorship campaigns are most effective. Moreover, it is imperative for organisations to continually look at different esports titles to ensure that they enter emerging scenes quickly, but also in a secure manner that is sustainable.

In the betting industry, it is no different. Keeping track of what is currently the most popular esports market greatly impacts sponsorship capabilities and betting product developments. Voshkarin noted: “Esports betting is extremely dynamic by nature, so operators need to get a feel for the market and keep their sportsbook up to date.”

Counter-Strike and Dota 2 continued to dominate on GG.BET’s platforms, which was expected, given that these two games are considered two of the ‘big three’ in esports betting (alongside League of Legends). Voshkarin noted that these disciplines continued to attract the attention of millions of viewers in 2023. Compared to 2022, the total sum of bets on Counter-Strike increased by 6%, while on Dota 2, it grew by 18% last year.

Coming in third was Riot Games’ VALORANT, one of the biggest new players in the esports betting race. On GG.BET’s platform, the FPS grew by four times among the platform’s users, impressive for a game that has only been on the market since 2020. 

The League of Legends World Championship trophy at Worlds 2023 in South Korea
The League of Legends World Championship trophy at Worlds 2023 in South Korea. Image credit: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games via Flickr.

League of Legends placed fourth on GG.BET’s platform, with Voshkarin detailing that the total sum of bets grew by 64% compared to the previous year. This placement of League of Legends is perhaps the most interesting as it also highlights who GG.BET’s platform attracts and how this audience can differ from bookmaker to bookmaker. Across the Kambi Network, which includes a vast number of sportsbooks, League of Legends was the second most popular esports bet.

Finally, fifth place was interestingly GG.BET’s own ‘football esports’ offering in which virtual teams controlled by AI compete in FIFA or PES. This demand doubled from 2022 to 2023. “Virtual sports have a lot of potential for bookmakers and offer users an exciting experience, because they’ll find out the results of bets placed on virtual matches quite literally within a matter of minutes,” said Voshkarin.

Despite its commercial and financial struggles over the last two years, it is clear to see that esports is still a potentially lucrative market for sports betting companies. It may not be the ‘goldmine’ that it was touted as a few years ago, but its prosperity can be seen through the growth of some endemic and non-endemic bookmakers investing in the scene.

However, just because a bookmaker’s roots come from esports, doesn’t mean it has to be typecast in the betting sector. In 2024, GG.BET plans to strengthen its sports betting offering. 

Mishchenko stated: “In addition to having one of the largest esportsbooks, comprising over 30 esports disciplines, GG.BET also offers betting on traditional sports. We’re developing our sportsbook for top events and planning to be on par with the best bookmakers in the world.”

Still, though, the CEO was quick to re-emphasise that the bookmaker wants to remain faithful to esports and its development. This includes collaborating on content with influencers, increasing audience involvement and setting up more fan events.  

In a period where many esports entities looked to cement their position in select markets and titles, GG.BET expanded its horizons. For 2024, the priority for the betting company will be to maintain its growth and continue to gain ground, both in esports and the wider betting industry.

Tom Daniels
Tom has been part of Esports Insider's team since October 2020 and is currently the platform's Editor. When not playing Football Manager, he enjoys reporting on the mobile esports scene as well as the betting sector.

This article is supported by GG.BET