eSports betting has been identified as an area of explosive growth for the online gambling industry. The 24/7 action and numbers surrounding participation, viewership, tournament prize pools and the industry in general are impressive and growing, attracting the attention of bookmakers and therefore iGaming affiliates.
The eSports industry is new to most of us working in iGaming and while it’s a clear area of interest, we’re still deciding if its worth pursuing. In this week’s column we’ll focus on the opportunity in eSports betting for affiliates, beginning with the growth of the market in general.
The growth of eSports
The eSports market is growing globally and at an incredibly rapid pace. eSports-betting.pro is one of the top affiliate sites dedicated to the eSports betting market, managed by a team of eSports enthusiasts. Florian K. is the co-founder of eSports-betting.pro and believes the continued growth of eSports hinges on the publishers of the games establishing more permanent leagues and professional environments for pro-players, but confirmed the future is looking bright.
“The eSports betting market is growing and more and more big brands are adding it to their service. When it comes to operators Pinnacle Sports is definitely the sportsbook that invests the most into eSports. Not only do they have the most markets and special bets, but they are also sponsoring eSports teams and tournaments”, Florian shared.
Pinnacle’s Head of Sportsbook is an avid gamer and the bookmaker accepted their first eSports wager back in 2010. Pinnacle Sports Marketing Director Ali Lalani confirmed, “In December 2014, we accepted our 1 millionth eSports bet. eSports level of volume traded has pretty much doubled each year since we began dealing it, and is actually now more popular with our bettors than traditional sports like golf or rugby…eSports is poised to make a jump from a niche market into the main stream”.
Some of the more niche iGaming operators are also starting to add eSports to their sportsbetting offerings. Stephanie Wynters, Head of Affiliates UK for 138.com, confirmed her company is actively involved in the sector.
“We added eSports earlier this year because it is currently the fastest growing participation sport in the world. It is well liked in our Asian European target market. Since eSports players are now officially recognized as athletes, it is now another sport to bet on. With millions of fans filling out arenas, celebrity endorsements and evolution of technology, is only going to get bigger and bigger”, said Wynters.
The increase in eSports interest has also been detected by established sportsbetting affiliates in the business such as Oddschecker.com. Anthony Haynes, Oddschecker’s Commercial Manager said, “We have seen a substantial increase in the number of bookmakers releasing odds for eSports over recent months, and our partners are regularly in touch to ensure their prices are displayed across the biggest events”.
He added, “Although the number of bets placed remains significantly less than mainstream sports, the traffic to the Oddschecker eSports pages has risen to such an extent that operators are already requesting that we display their advertising creative, specifically targeted towards eSports users, across the available display inventory”.
One thing to keep in mind is while the eSports industry is growing rapidly, jumping on the eSports betting bandwagon won’t necessarily be an instant win for everyone.
“When it comes to betting you must not forget that a lot of the eSports fans are not of legal age or reside in the US so they are not allowed to bet. This means the betting market is actually a lot smaller than the viewer numbers suggest”, Florian pointed out.
He added, “In the last couple of years we have seen some dedicated eSports betting sites come and go. For e.g. eSportsventure was licensed in Malta but did not even last a year before they closed business in June 2014. GGwins had a UK license but was only around for a couple of months. Digibet entered the market very early but pulled out in 2013. This does not mean the market has no future, but it might be overestimated a little bit”.
Opportunity for affiliates in eSports
At this early stage, there are mainly two types of affiliates involved in the eSports betting market- those that are 100% dedicated to eSports betting such as eSports-Betting.pro and more established sportsbetting affiliates that have added eSports to their content offering such as Oddschecker. Both types of affiliates are experiencing growth in eSports betting, but the sector is not yet a huge revenue generator.
“The content available is currently limited as the eSports betting market is, understandably, still in its infancy. Not all bookmakers on our site price up the markets, and when they do it is rarely outside of DOTA or League of Legends. Nevertheless, it is now possible to compare the odds and bet on eSports practically every day via Oddschecker”, said Haynes.
The gambling affiliate landscape is a competitive one and according to Florian, eSports is no exception even though it’s a much smaller market and less lucrative than traditional sports betting.
“In general the wagers on eSports are very small. We are all eSports enthusiasts and want to see our scene grow, this is the reason why we put a lot of effort in this project, but we cannot make a living of this”, Florian said.
Pinnacle has seen significant growth in affiliates promoting eSports, to the point where their affiliate program actually employs eSports experts as part of the team. “More than 10% of our current active affiliates promote eSports, and the top level eSports affiliates drive substantial acquisition numbers’, Lalani said.
At present, eSports dedicated affiliates are driving the most volume for Pinnacle’s eSports offerings, but as the sector become more mainstream, Pinnacle anticipates “traditional” sportsbetting affiliates will catch up as they add eSports content. “I expect as we move through 2015 and into 2016, those lines will become blurrier”, said Lalani.
Roy Daniels is the Affiliate Manager for Nitrogensports.eu, a Bitcoin sports and casino gambling website offering odds on eSports. It should go as no surprise eSports and Bitcoin are a natural fit, attracting technically savvy and enthusiastic customers who are familiar with both communities.
“We’d encourage all of our affiliates to tap into this market – I can’t overstate how big of an opportunity eSports presents. This year’s Dota2 The International had a prize pool of over $18 Million USD. What truly impressed us is that the majority of the prize pool was crowd funded! That’s an engaged group of fans”, Daniels said.
He added, “Whatever your personal feelings are on whether Dota, LOL or Starcraft are ‘real sports’, it’s difficult to argue against the fact that eSports is one of the fastest growing categories of sport viewership and participation in the world. Beyond that, the community is just plain fun!”
Best advice for affiliates
Now that we understand a bit more about the opportunities within the eSports betting market, here is some advice for affiliates who are interested in getting involved.
“Our advice would be to get involved as soon as possible”, said Haynes. “The eSports sector is clearly on the rise and, as we’ve already witnessed with the likes of reality TV, political, and other specials betting, it could prove very wise to build a brand and audience around eSports early, as it will likely bear fruit in the months and years to come”.
According to Wynters, “It is just a matter of time for affiliates to jump on board with eSports Betting. I recommend buying the good domains now, top ones are taken but be clever”.
Florian advised, “If you want to get into eSports betting make sure you understand the eSports scene as it is a whole world on its own”.
In a nutshell, get involved now and do your research- the future for eSports is looking bright.