With the world going into lockdown, sporting leagues and competitions around the world are being postponed. A summer of sport with Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics is no longer and both have been moved to the summer of 2021. Due to the lockdown, bookmakers have been forced to close their shops. The shutdown in global sport have forced them to look at less popular markets for their online sites. Looking at a betting site today, there are odds on fixtures you wouldn’t normally see on the homepage. This includes Nicaraguan Primera Division (Football), Russian Liga Pro (Ice Hockey) and Belarus MVL Mixed (Volleyball). However, with most people unlikely to place a bet on games they are not familiar with, are bookmakers missing a trick? Can eSports betting fill the void?
The move to eSports
Last year, global sports betting generated four-fifths of Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter’s total revenue and just over half of William Hill’s. With the global sporting lockdown currently in place, can eSports betting fill the sporting void and keep bookmakers in business?
Sports fans looking to fill the gap of live sports have been driven to the virtual world. Clubs and competitions around the world are filling their fixture gaps with virtual replacements. With the Formula 1 season delayed, racing stars competed against each other in the Australian Grand Prix in The Race where 515,000 people watched live. Others competed in Formula 1’s Virtual Grand Prix Series at the Bahrain International Circuit. Both of these races were on video games and streamed live for fans to watch.
League Two side Leyton Orient brought football clubs from around the world to compete against each other in a FIFA 20 tournament named Ultimate Quaran-Team. With 128 clubs signing up to take part, it didn’t take long for bookmakers to get on board. Fans are able to bet on the individual matches as well as the overall winner. This is a much more relatable bet for most football fans compared to the Nicaraguan Primera Division even though the games are taking place on a video game.
eSports is growing
Last year, global eSports revenue topped $1bn for the first time ever and its audience grew by 450 million around the world. With the lack of live sports happening in the real world, this number is likely to grow as clubs and competitions introduce a host of new fans to the industry. eSports tournaments and events that are being created to replace the postponed real-world fixtures are more relatable to fans. They can also introduce them into the world of eSports. Fans could then move into following and betting on the competitive eSports leagues including League of Legends which were likely to have been unknown to them only a few weeks ago.
Bookmakers are moving to eSports
Bookmakers are offering markets for eSports if you look for them. Looking at some of the UK’s most popular betting websites such as Paddy Power and Ladbrokes we have seen markets available on some of the popular eSports matches in League of Legends and Counter-Strike. It will be interesting to see if more eSports markets begin to appear as the lockdown continues and eSports become increasingly popular to the mass sports market.
Time for eSports to shine
There has never been a better time for eSports to shine and take advantage of people stuck inside. They currently don’t have to compete against live sports for viewers. Although they are currently unable to fill out stadiums, unlike live sports, tournaments can still go ahead through live streaming. One of the most popular streaming websites, Twitch, has seen an increase of 10% in viewers. Matches still going ahead and without glitches can give a great first impression to new viewers. The more new viewers they can get to return, the more attractive it will be for bookmakers.
It’s clear that eSports has risen in popularity over the last few weeks and sports fans who may never have thought of watching are now becoming more interested. Sports fans who used to bet on live sports no longer have the opportunity to bet on their favourite leagues. eSports betting can not just fill the void for bettors right now, but it could just be the beginning of eSports betting becoming as popular as betting on the Premier League.