For the past few weeks, sports betting fans have seen leagues cancel games one after the other as the Covid-19 pandemic hits nations across the globe. With no physical games to go to and to bet on, many bettors are now turning toward esports as an alternative.
According to Online Betting Guide, they have seen a 943% traffic increase to its esports betting tips page. Dead or Alive 2 saw a month-on-month increase of 245% in betting tips last February to March. This means that more bettors are trying to learn and get into esports betting during the quarantine.
Quentin Martin, CEO of esports betting site Luckbox, says, “While the esports calendar has also been affected, it’s much more resilient in this situation because matches can be played online, without players needing to be in the same place.”
“And, while having fans live in an arena generates a great atmosphere, it doesn’t make too much difference to the hundreds of thousands of fans watching via live stream.”
True enough, some previously announced postponed games were later moved online instead such as leagues for Counter-Strike, Dota 2, and League of Legends, among others.
Due to esports’ popularity and convenience for players, viewers, and bettors during the crisis, bookmakers are promoting more virtual games online to keep the business going. In the UK, most, if not all, major betting sites are continuously hosting virtual sports events at the moment.
On the other hand, ITV, a big television channel in the UK, recently broadcast ‘The Virtual Grand National’, an AI replacement of the country’s most prominent horse race event. The broadcast was shown during the same time the event was supposedly held. Viewers were encouraged to place bets and all profits were to be given to National Health Service charities.
Will esports betting continue to grow after the pandemic?
Esports betting had been steadily growing along with the sport itself and, according to Wholesale Investor, the industry is predicted to reach $17.2 billion by the end of the year.
Due to the surge in esports betting activity, more bookmakers are trying to further explore the online gaming category. Consequently, more bettors are also taking an interest in this area due to its current convenience and profitability.
If esports continue to become more popular with traditional sports bettors and vice versa, then the industry might even see more of a crossover between traditional sports and esports, such as the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.
Kevin Wimer, Rivalry’s Chief Marketing Officer, tells Esports Insider, “Mainstream media is putting out headlines on esports being the only sport now, and on our end we have seen traditional sportsbooks that previously were not too active marketing in esports coming downstream and looking to get involved.”
“Opening up the immense potential of esports to a whole new market, who is almost forced to pay attention with no traditional sports going on, is certainly a bit of a catalyst for the entire industry.”
While it’s still too early to say whether esports betting can take over traditional sports betting in the future, it is undoubtedly saving the industry right now.