Esports Growth Means Big Things for Gamblers

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Video games have long been played competitively between friends. Dating back to the Atari, people competed against each other in games like Football, Sky Racer, and Slot Racers.

Of course, competitive gaming has evolved quite a bit since the 8-bit Atari’s heyday. The esports world now features organized leagues, major sponsorships, and highly skilled professionals.

This industry has really taken off within the past decade. It shows no signs of slowing down either.

One interesting byproduct of this growth is a rising esports gambling market. Many online bookmakers are now featuring esports betting lines alongside athletic sports, like basketball, football, hockey, and soccer.

Of course, video-game gambling feels like a small niche when compared to traditional sports. But I’m going to explain why it’ll become a very popular gambling activity, especially when considering where it started.

Esports Have Been Around Much Longer than People Think

Esports might seem like a new industry. However, competitive gaming has actually been around in some form or another since the early 1970s.

The first-known gaming tournament happened at Stanford University in October 1972. Students faced off in Spacewar, with the prize being a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone.

The first highly publicized video-game tourney was held by Atari in 1980. Their Space Invaders Championship drew over 10,000 competitors.

Although fairly underground at the time, competitive gaming received features in various newspapers and magazines at the time. This publicity brought attention to gamers like Billy Mitchell, who became famous for his record-breaking scores on Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.

Mitchell’s records would later be wiped out in 2018 due to fraud. But his supposed achievements inspired players to improve at the time.

Many people may be surprised to know that televised esports tournaments have been around since 1982.

The TV show Starcade, which ran for 133 episodes from 1982 to ‘84, showcased people trying to beat high scores in various games.

The BBC’s First Class helped spread gaming competitions to European audiences. They featured competitors playing games like Hyper Sports and Paperboy. The 1982 film Tron is notable for bringing tournament gaming to the big screen.

Netrek was the world’s first attempt at online competition. This cross-platform, open-source software allowed up to 16 players to compete in intergalactic warfare.

The Esports Concept Grew from 1990s Fighting Games

The 1970s and ‘80s introduced competitive gaming. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the masses would embrace the concept.

Capcom’s 1991 game Street Fighter II was the first blockbuster that saw players compete directly against each other. Up until this point, video games had mainly relied on high scores to determine winners.

Street Fighter II differed by seeing players fight each other in a best-of-three match. Interestingly enough, this game is still relevant on the esports scene today.

The Midway-produced Mortal Kombat (1992) and Killer Instinct (1995) would further popularize player-vs-player gaming. The successes of these fighting games helped spur the first Evolution Championship Series (EVO) in 1996.

The 1990s also saw PC games enter the realm of professional gaming.

For Example.

The Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) featured events revolving around Counter-Strike, Quake, and Warcraft.

The Counter-Strike and Warcraft series both hold prominent places in esports today.

Where Was Esports Betting in the 1990s?

Attitudes about gambling have changed greatly within the past two decades. Countries that once treated betting as highly immoral have now begun embracing the activity.

But this wasn’t the prevailing attitude among Americans in the 1990s. Sports betting was confined to Nevada, and it was largely demonized across the US.

1992 saw the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This legislation put a federal ban on sports wagering, outside of four states. Of these states, only Nevada was allowed to offer full-blown sports gambling.

Given the state of affairs back then, it’s no surprise that betting on video-game tournaments was rare. No legal market existed to do so, and the activity wasn’t large enough to interest underground bookies.

The only type of esports betting that occurred in these days was between players. It wasn’t uncommon for two or more players to make friendly wagers with each other. However, the concept of legal esports gambling was still years away.

South Korea Laid the Seeds for Major Esports Tournaments

The United States may have been the site of the first EVO, and the Nintendo World Championships before this. But South Korea is credited with being the spark plug for what the pro gaming industry has become.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis increased the country’s unemployment rate. This left many people with lots of free time to play video games.

The financial crisis also happened at a time when broadband networks and consumer internet use was on the rise. Internet cafes and LAN gaming centers (a.k.a. PC bangs) sprang up across the nation.

PC Bang Internet Cafe in Seoul South Korea

This perfect storm caused many young Korean gamers to compete against each other at PC bangs. Tournaments soon became wildly popular in South Korea as a result.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism even launched a Korean e-Sports Association in 2000 to regulate competitions. Soon, the Land of the Morning Calm was THE premier destination for pro gamers.

South Korea helped the number of major esports tournaments increase from 10 in 2000, to 260 by 2010. This nation began televising many competitions, especially those involving StarCraft and Warcraft III.

Other countries outside of South Korea also helped bolster esports through TV coverage. France’s Game One network (still active) and ESPN’s Madden Nation (2005-08) offer/offered popular video-gaming programming.

Esports gambling was still an underground activity during the 2000s. Most countries maintained their pessimistic views towards any type of betting, including South Korea. Nevertheless, esports betting as a whole wouldn’t be where it is today without the South Korean gaming boom.

Online Gaming, Twitch & High Profile Esports Tournaments

The esports industry experienced another positive byproduct in the 2000s, with many casual players getting acclimated to online gaming. They experienced the thrill of competition while facing off against each other.

Call of Duty, Halo, and SOCOM Navy Seals were some of the console games that introduced people to online play. Counter-Strike, League of Legends (LoL), and Dota also began gaining popularity among the online crowd.

Twitch brought yet another advancement to esports. This online streaming platform launched in 2011 and offered tournament organizers a convenient way to showcase events.

Twitch played a huge role in bringing attention to major esports events like LoL’s World Championship and Dota 2’s The International. Soon, millions of people were tuning into streams surrounding these annual competitions.

The 2013 LoL World Championship sold out the L.A. Staples Center. The 2014 World Championship was held in front of 40,000 spectators in Seoul.

The Esports Scene Today

Esports continue growing, with more leagues, teams, pros, and tournaments entering the fray ever year. The industry has grown to the point where teams and certain pros are earning millions of dollars to compete.

The esports fanbase is also quickly growing. Over 200 million people view competitions each day. It’s estimated that 300 million will be watching by 2020.

Teams and leagues certainly aren’t struggling financially. A large number of advertisers are pouring money into the industry.

Male millennials make up the majority of the 200 million who watch competitive gaming daily. Therefore, esports are a great avenue for companies that wish to reach younger men.

Esports betting is another sector that’s quickly growing. Many sportsbooks now offer video-game gambling on a wide variety of games.

Betting activity especially ramps up during major events like Dota 2’s The International, Fortnite’s Fall Skirmish Series, and LoL’s World Championship. These events are somewhat like the Super Bowl, World Series, and March Madness to competitive gaming.

Esports wagering is finding solid ground at other points of the year too. Bookmakers are noticing that video games are a popular year-round draw for bettors.

Why You Should Consider Taking up Esports Gambling Now

If you’re not wagering on competitive gaming yet, then there’s no better time to get involved than now. Esports betting currently offers a number of advantages that make it a potential goldmine for successful gamblers.

Betting on Esports Is Easy If You’re Already into Sports Gambling

Have you already wagered on sports? Then you’ll have little trouble transitioning to esports gambling, which is very similar.

Video-game betting uses the same types of wagers and odds. Some of the bet types include moneylines, point spreads, totals, parlays, teasers, and prop bets. Odds include American, decimal, and fractional.

It’s also worth noting that popular sportsbooks feature esports betting. This convenience allows you to wager on both traditional sports and video games at the same site.

You’ll find that the process for making quality bets is nearly the same too. Knowing handicapping fundamentals will help you place smart esports wagers, just as it would with sports.

Esports Betting Sites Feature Big Bonuses

Esportsbooks offer bonuses to entice you into signing up and depositing. The most-common deals include free bets and deposit bonuses.

A free wager gives you the opportunity to earn back losses from your first bet (if it’s a loser). Here’s an example:

  • You get a free bet worth up to $20.
  • You place a $20 wager and lose.
  • You’re now eligible to earn back $20.

A deposit bonus is based on a percentage of your first deposit. Here’s an example:

  • A betting site is offering a 100% match bonus up to $100.
  • You deposit $50.
  • You’re eligible to earn a $50 bonus.

Remember that you can only cash out a deposit bonus or free-bet losses after meeting terms and conditions. Common terms include wagering requirements, minimum odds, and a time stipulation on when the bet must be placed.

Keep an eye out for esports betting promotions too. These deals can help you continue boosting your bankroll.

You Have an Early Chance to Become an Esports Betting Expert

What’s exciting about esports betting is that it doesn’t appear anywhere near its peak. Esports gambling is expected to become a $23.5 billion industry by 2020.

Given the industry’s relative youth, many are still figuring out the best way to wager on it. Therefore, you can jump in and become one of the early experts.

I’ve discussed how esports betting strategy has parallels with traditional sports wagering. But there are still intricacies that are being mapped out right now.

The profit potential for esports gambling figures to grow. Esportsbooks will only continue offering more lines and liquidity. These increased opportunities will enable you to find plenty of soft lines.

Of course, there are growing pains when jumping into any new type of gambling. Competitive gaming is no different, because you’ll need to master the teams, players, and correct handicapping strategies.

Nevertheless, esports wagering isn’t as defined as regular sports betting. You can still find a large number of soft lines with the right skills.

Are There Any Downsides to Esports Betting vs. Traditional Sports Betting?

Wagering on video games isn’t an automatic path towards riches. It also features some downsides that you should think about before getting started. Here are the biggest drawbacks to consider.

Esports Betting Is Going Through Regulatory Pains in the US

The US Supreme Court recently cleared the way for legal sports betting. They struck down an archaic law that previously banned sports gambling on a federal level.

States are now able to decide whether they want to offer sports wagering.

Several have already made the decision to do so and are running betting markets.

Of course, the country features 50 states and multiple territories. Nearly half are expected to offer sports gambling in the near future — but this won’t be the case for a while.

It’s a wonder what some states will do regarding esports betting. New Jersey initially banned the activity due to certain pros being under 18 years of age. However, they reneged and stated that esports bets are legal, provided all competitors are 18+.

Every state will be allowed to deal with esports gambling as they wish. Some may not allow it at all due to how some pro gamers are minors.

Esports Gambling Doesn’t Offer As Many Markets

The sports betting world is filled with many options. You can wager on anything from basketball to table tennis.

Esports covers a broad range of games. However, its number of markets is nowhere near the size of what’s available in sports gambling.

Most of the action takes place in games like LoL, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Heroes of the Storm. Many of the other markets aren’t even covered at some esportsbooks.

You also have to worry about the availability of live wagering. Betting sites don’t offer many in-play opportunities outside of major events.

Esports Betting Strategy Isn’t as Settled

Sports betting’s lengthy existence means that it has well-known strategy. You can learn a great deal just by spending an hour reading articles and watching YouTube videos.

Esports is a different ballgame. While you will find some advice on how to place quality bets, there aren’t nearly as many resources available.

Many gamblers are busy becoming trailblazers in this field. The book is far from written on esports gambling strategy.

Of course, handicapping, bankroll management, and line shopping are still valid. Just don’t expect to find an abundance of articles and videos that’ll help you make the right wagers.


Esports have a long history that traces its roots back to the early 1970s. Growth was steady for the next few decades, as competitive gaming slowly founds its bearings.

Esports’ popularity began accelerating in the 2000s, as South Korean interest, online play, and major events came about. The 2010s have brought about an even bigger boom.

This growth has helped the betting side of esports immensely. Numerous bookmakers now offer gambling on video games.

If you’ve ever wanted to be on the cusp of a newer form of gambling, now is the time to bet on esports. The industry is still filled with soft lines, and the strategy is still being defined.

You can of course fall back on traditional sports betting strategy if you have such experience. Any handicapping and bankroll-management skills gained here can translate to esports.

You should also scout out bonuses at esportsbook. These sites commonly give free bets and/or deposit bonuses to new customers.

It’s also important to understand the potential downsides of esports betting. These include an uncertain regulatory environment, undefined strategy, and fewer markets.

As long as you’re fine with the possible drawbacks, then it’s worth looking into esports gambling. You may find yourself with an excellent opportunity to win big.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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