Keith McDonnell, CEO, KMiGaming
Many would be mistaken to think the convergence of Gambling and eSports is new. The global COVID-19 pandemic has certainly brought it to the forefront of gambling executives minds with sports calendars obliterated by our modern-day scourge.
Online casinos, virtual sports and eSports wagering have all become industry darlings as Operators have frantically looked for ways to plug the live- sports void.
The truth is somewhat different though. Pinnacle catapulted eSports into the gambling sector limelight in 2014. They had taken their one-millionth bet on eSports by then, and by February 2017 that number had skyrocketed to five million.
eSports and gambling are not a new phenomenon, and nor should gambling Operators still be wrestling with how to deliver competitive eSports solutions to their clients - a database punctuated daily by an increasing number of eSports fans.
Every year at international gambling conferences the topic of how “Operators appeal to the younger generations” will come up as a recurring topic of discussion. Here is a shiny product handed to them, wrapped in a velvet bow, that can deliver just that.
We can’t expect traditional sports bettors to transition seamlessly across to eSports betting, especially in the face of a tsunami of returning sports. But the efforts put in by Operators to do more within eSports during the cessation of sports can create a platform for taking this channel to the next level, appeal to new customers and help plug gaps in the 24-hour sports clock.
The biggest convergence Operators are seeing is among sports games such as FIFA, NBA2k and FI. Finding a way to transition sports bettors into betting on tournaments involving these games doesn’t seem like a huge leap if done correctly. We know avid sports bettors already enjoy a trip to the online casino when the game is finished; they don’t need attention - others do and this is a very real option.
DOTA and League of Legend, for example, can’t be compared to any sports and any advantage the team builds across the game can be erased in one team fight. This question is not simply one of converging sports bettors and eSports. It’s about targeting identified customer segments with specific eSports products, which can only be done effectively with true customer profiling and analysis. We don’t look at sports gamblers and ask, “do you like sports”? We break it down to individual sports. Are you a football fan, golf, or maybe NBA is your thing? This is equally applicable within the eSports ecosystem.
Another key aspect to understand is the truly global nature of eSports. Sports, and therefore sports betting, has its global popularity hotspots. eSports is adored on all continents. It’s also 100% online, with a fully integrated global community bringing fans together from all over the world. It’s estimated that 2019 saw over 252 million eSports viewers consume competitive gaming at least semi-regularly.
Can any sport, perhaps with the exception of football (soccer), really say this? 2020 will undoubtedly see these numbers increase through organic growth and the impact ofCOVID-19 will help drive growth in this vertical.
While eSports is not new to gambling, 2020 will be known as the year that cemented this product in the forefront of gambling Operators minds, helping target alternative customers and deliver a more substantive round the clock offering generally 365 days of the year.
We don’t thank COVID for much, but eSports aficionados may raise a small glass in Years to come as they reflect on how it helped make eSports a lucrative gambling product alongside major sports.