The esports industry has gone through plenty of changes in the past several years thanks to its massive growth. More people are watching esports than ever before through streaming platforms like Twitch.
This increased viewership has helped create massive tournaments. Case in point, Dota 2’s The International featured a $25 million prize pool in 2018.
The popularity of esports has spawned a thriving betting industry. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an online sportsbook that doesn’t offer esports gambling in some capacity.
But as much as esports and its gambling industry have evolved in recent times, you can expect even more changes in the future. Most of these changes will likely be for the better, too.
That said, I’m going to discuss the current state of esports gambling along with where it’ll be in a decade.
What Is the Current State of Esports Betting?
Not long ago, esports gambling wasn’t even an option. Sportsbooks didn’t see enough popularity from competitive video gaming to offer action on it.
However, bookmakers can no longer ignore the success of esports today. They’re now capitalizing on the activity by offering lines on the most popular games.
But even with widespread availability of esports wagering, the industry still has a ways to go in terms of improvement. Check out the current state of esports betting below.
Most Action Is Centered on Popular PC Games
The general public may envision esports being based on popular console franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and Mario Kart. However, PC games rule the competitive side of gaming.
Dota 2, League of Legends (LoL), Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are the four most popular esports right now. Not coincidentally, they’re all PC products too.
Both esports organizations and pro gamers like PC games because they largely have longevity. Dota 2, which comprises the most viewed esport, has been available since 2012.
This steadiness means that the pros don’t have to relearn maps, characters, and weapons every time that a sequel is released. They instead only have to stay up to date on new maps and expansions.
Of course, console games still have a place in esports. Call of Duty and Halo are pretty popular on the pro gaming scene. However, they aren’t currently poised to join the PC games at the top yet.
Limited Number of Available Games
The esports world currently offers a solid variety of games. Well over a dozen video games have found success in the pro ranks.
Here are the most notable esports:
- Dota 2
- League of Legends
- Call of Duty
- FIFA Soccer
- Apex Legends
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
- Heroes of the Storm
- Rocket League
- Starcraft II
- Street Fighter
- Super Smash Bros.
- World of Tanks
This list covers games from a variety of genres. However, the number of esports still has room for improvement.
Primarily an Eastern Affair
Esports’ first taste of success came in the East. Specifically, South Koreans started the esports boom by taking advantage of fast broadband internet and their love of video games.
China and Japan have since become huge esports hubs too. Given that three of the biggest Asian countries love gaming, it’s no surprise that most fans hail from the same continent.
It’s great that esports have such a huge fan base in Asia. But it would be nice to see the activity become more popular in Western countries as well.
Of course, esports have experienced some degree of success in the United States and other Western nations. Los Angeles and Seattle, for example, host major esports events on a regular basis.
By and large, though, esports is definitely more popular in Asia. This fact has somewhat tempered the industry’s growth in North America and Europe.
Esports Betting Is Lightly Regulated
Online gambling regulation is changing at a rapid pace across the world. More and more countries are setting up regulated markets to take advantage of internet gaming.
Even still, plenty of nations have yet to take any serious action on online gambling. Given that esports betting mostly takes place online, it follows suit with the internet gaming industry as a whole.
In the US, for example, most states are still deciding on what to do with esports and traditional sports wagering.
The vast majority of America uses offshore sportsbooks to wager on video games. Therefore, the activity is still mostly underground.
With regulation moving at a snail’s pace, it may be some time before esports betting is truly brought into the light.
Live Esports Wagering Is Very Limited
Live betting (a.k.a. in-play betting) has revolutionized the sports gambling world. Most online bookmakers now feature separate sections for regular and live wagering.
In-play betting differs from regular wagers because it’s offered as a match is taking place. This setup allows you to make additional bets while watching a match.
Contrast this to popular sports leagues like the MLB, NBA, NFL, and Premier League, which have live bets available on a regular basis.
How Esports Betting Will Change
The esports gambling world isn’t exactly in tatters. In fact, video game betting would likely keep growing even if nothing changes.
However, esports leagues and tournament organizers are continually looking for ways to improve their product. These changes should also impact the gambling side in a positive way. Here are a few things to look out for in the future of esports.
More Games Will Be Available for Betting Purposes
You can currently bet on a solid variety of video games right now. However, no esports enthusiasts would complain about having a few more options available.
Those hoping for more from their esports betting should get their wish within the next 5-10 years. As the industry grows, additional niche markets will open up in competitive gaming.
It’s only natural that these new esports will make their way to online betting sites. That said, you can look forward to even more variety.
The Industry Will Become More of an International Affair
Asia may have fueled the initial esports boom that’s made competitive gaming so popular today. However, other continents will embrace the industry more as time goes on.
The US is definitely one country that will grow to like video gaming even more. After all, The International and World Championship have both been held in America in the past.
US casinos are getting into the act as well, using esports as a way to draw younger potential gamblers. The Luxor, for example, built the 30,000-square-foot HyperX Arena strictly for esports.
Other countries, like the UK and Germany, are getting more involved too. They’re hosting lots of esports tournaments every year, which will see the industry gain popularity in their respective nations as well.
AI Will Enter the Esports World
Everybody thinks of esports in terms of people playing people. After all, this is exactly how pro gaming works.
Teams of human players face off to see who has the better skills. But the gaming landscape could change greatly in the future, with artificial intelligence entering the picture.
The idea of AI bots playing each other doesn’t sound overly exciting. After all, nobody dreams of a day when they can watch computers play each other in video games.
But AI-based esports will become a reality at some point. In fact, there might even be a separate league just for bots.
Artificial intelligence has already made its way into the competitive scene. A bot from the Elon Musk-funded OpenAI defeated Dota 2 pro Danil “Dendi” Ishutin in a heads-up match.
The Google-funded DeepMind produced AlphaStar, a program that plays StarCraft II. AlphaStar has already managed to knock off some pros.
Esports organizers aren’t going to let AI compete in a major tournament. But don’t rule out the possibility of these programs entering the industry in some capacity, even if it’s only for novelty matches.
Regulation Will Improve Esports Gambling – Not Continue to Hamper It
The government has a reputation for ruining things when they get involved. For example, the US federal government initiated legal events (e.g., UIGEA, Black Friday) that crippled online poker for American players.
Black Friday paved the way for states to create their own regulated internet poker markets. But the state-by-state model has drastically reduced cash game and tournament liquidity, thus making the game less popular overall.
Does the same fate await esports gambling? Probably not, because video game betting doesn’t rely on liquidity as much as online poker.
The only question is how each state will handle the matter. New Jersey started out by banning esports gambling, citing that some professionals are younger than 18. They later changed their stance by allowing esports wagering on any match where every participant is 18 years or older.
Dozens of states are currently working on sports betting legislation. Many estimates claim that up to 20 states will soon have a fully operational sports gambling market.
Esports should be included in most, if not all, of these markets. This should be a good thing for the industry, given that esportsbooks will be able to advertise through mainstream channels.
More Live Esports Betting Opportunities Will Be Available
The biggest improvement that esportsbooks can make involves offering more in-play betting opportunities. As I discussed before, sportsbooks don’t offer live esports bets on a regular basis.
But everything goes back to how online bookmakers didn’t even have esports on their radar a few years ago. Esports betting is still fairly new as a whole.
However, sportsbooks have become more comfortable with esports and now offer plenty of lines every day. It’s only a matter of time before they start adding live betting opportunities to the equation.
Will the Esports Betting World Be Better in 10 Years?
Most of the changes I’ve outlined above will be for the better. The esports industry can definitely benefit from more games, a larger international fan base, regulated markets, and more live wagering.
Esports are in a serious growth phase right now with no end in sight. It’s hard telling just how far the industry will go.
Much of gaming’s potential lies with future developments. Esports can only go so far if the activity’s popularity remains confined to certain Asian countries. More games are also needed to appeal to a larger audience.
The betting aspect is being held up by government red tape in some areas. Many countries and states need to sort out what they want to do with esports before it can truly thrive.
But most of these uncertainties should be worked out within the next decade. Governments will be incentivized to work on regulated esports betting if the industry continues taking off. Likewise, sportsbooks will offer action on additional games and more in-play betting opportunities if esports keep growing.
AI is the lone potential negative I can see on the horizon. Bots will only become even better at video games as they receive more development.
Will people still be interested in esports if they know that a computer program can demolish the pros? Could a professional somehow cheat by using AI to their advantage?
On the other hand, AI could merely supplement the industry in some capacity. The industry could even feature a unique league that’s based on bots playing video games against each other.
Most of the world was unaware of esports a decade ago. However, the activity has grown to the point where it’s now popular across the globe.
This accelerated popularity has since given rise to a thriving betting industry. Countless sportsbooks now offer lines on both big and small esports tournaments.
Competitive gaming is far from reaching its true potential. Therefore, many changes are in store for esports betting and gaming as a whole.
Nobody can predict with 100% certainty where video game gambling is headed, but one can make reasonable assumptions based on the industry’s current status and where it needs to improve.
First off, the fanbase will likely become more diversified. Asia makes up most esports fans, but many other regions should join the party in the near future. More international viewers will naturally lead to additional betting.
Regulated gambling markets should be more cemented within a decade or so. Many states and countries will be offering legal esports gambling by then.
Additional games will be available in the future as well. The industry already has a nice selection, but more esports definitely won’t hurt the betting side.
AI creates some uncertainty within competitive gaming. Bots have already beaten pros and will eventually become the world’s most dominant gamers. But the fact that AI can beat humans likely won’t diminish esports’ popularity.
That said, esports betting is looking towards a bright future. More fans, live wagering, and regulated environments will combine to make esports a more common part of the gambling world.