Study Indicates eSports Betting Poised for Big Growth in 2018 and Beyond

A survey conducted by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, LLC has found that the betting industry has high expectations for the growth of eSports betting. The survey asked the operators of 31 different betting sites that offer eSports markets a series of questions involving their expectations for 2018. Every last respondent replies that they believe eSports betting handle will continue to grow in 2018.

The survey appeared in the most recent issue of the eSports & Gambling Monitor publication that Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, LLC releases on a quarterly basis. The report itself is behind a paywall, but an article published by Forbes this morning discusses some of the key findings that paint such an optimistic picture.

According to Forbes, the survey asked the operators of betting sites ranging in size from very small on up to international industry leaders. Some of those surveyed were smaller sites that focus exclusively on eSports and others were major gaming sites that also have an option for eSports wagering. In every case, the respondents expressed optimism.

The findings paint a largely optimistic picture of the future of eSports betting. In addition to every respondent predicting more growth in 2018, every respondent also reported that its eSports betting handle stayed the same or increased over the last year. Not a single respondent reported a decline in the amount of money bet on eSports events.

Growth Factors

The Forbes report cites three primary growth drivers identified by the survey. First is anticipated growth in existing competitions and leagues such as those for League of Legends, StarCraft II and Overwatch.

Such widespread growth of existing leagues is promising, because some leagues have already been putting up impressive numbers for several years now. For example, the 2017 League of Legends Season World Championship brought 24 teams together who competed for a total combined prize pool of $4.9 million. The first-place team went home with $1.8 million in prize money.

That wasn’t even the biggest event of the year – far from it, in fact. The International 2017 for Dota 2 featured a prize pool of $24.7 million and sent the winning team home with $10.8 million in prize money this past August.

Second is the introduction of even more leagues throughout 2018. One specifically mentioned by Forbes as an example is the Overwatch League, which just kicked off its first regular season last month. The Overwatch League shows how things are changing, as this one breaks away from the somewhat haphazard nature of team formation as “the first major global eSports league with city-based teams.”

And finally, survey respondents believe increased crossover between real-world sports and eSports will further drive growth. For example, the MLS recently partnered with EA Sports to construct a league around FIFA 18. Each of the 19 participating clubs will choose just one pro gamer from the region to represent it throughout the eMLS season – again, we’re starting to see more city-based representation in eSports.

Will We Legal See eSports Betting in the USA?

This remains to be seen. Of course, the first step would be for the federal sports betting prohibition to be overturned one way or another.

Currently, the likeliest path for that to happen is for New Jersey to win its Supreme Court case challenging the law. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of New Jersey and declares the prohibition unconstitutional, individual states would be given the authority to legalize and regulate sports betting as they see fit.

Only after states begin passing regulation would the fate of legal eSports betting in the USA be known. In other places where sports betting is already legal, regulators have generally been accepting of the idea – but only after studying the issue and thinking it over. eSports are not yet established to the point where they are lumped in with traditional real-world sports in the minds of legislators.

The UK’s Gambling Commission considers eSports betting no different than betting on other events, but has studied the issue closely and continues to monitor the industry with a watchful eye. Major operators licensed by the UK Gambling Commission are free to offer eSports betting markets.

Closer to home, we can look to Nevada. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has so far proven quite friendly to eSports betting. A bill passed last year further expanded the types of eSports wagers local sportsbooks are legally permitted to offer to customers.

It will ultimately come down to how legislation is crafted and whether or not eSports can sneak into regulations that govern traditional sports betting or if eSports will need special carve-outs. How states define the word “sports” will likely play a role.

Additionally, the major sports leagues will likely be chiming in if states begin crafting legislation. With the MLS and NBA both getting involved with major game developers to launch new eSports leagues, they will likely make sure lawmakers are aware of eSports and the popularity of eSports betting.

This is all speculation, but the future of eSports betting in the United States looks bright based on what we’ve seen from other jurisdictions. The biggest hurdle isn’t related to eSports specifically; it is the federal prohibition that blocks all sports betting in the first place.