The new dawn of esports betting

In the absence of sports, esports betting is taking the big leap. Starting from being the industry’s undervalued vertical, esports betting went straight at the forefront of the industry in less than one month, due to sports events being cancelled worldwide in the light of the pandemic threat.

5 Star Media talks to EveryMatrix’s Malte Hegeler, Head of Product Development for the company’s sports product, to find out how bookmakers are coping with the new reality, and what are they now doing to adjust and keep players engaged.

How valuable do operators see esports as now begin compared to a year or two ago?

Esports has already a long history in betting, and they offer a vast amount of engaging content, titles, betting markets. Overall, I think this is a big moment for esports, and the global lockdown is seeing sports fans turn to esports as a form of entertainment (especially NBA 2k, FIFA and others with real-life correspondents).

In turnover, esports made less than 1.5% turnover before the COVID-19 crisis. In the last weeks, a whopping 35% can be attributed to esports, which is quite a massive leap. The most popular esports are now FiFA and NBA 2K, which have the best adoption rate among regular sports bettors. This is mainly because of the similarities of the games with real-life events, which means that the entry barrier is low and easy to surpass. Moreover, in FIFA and NBA 2k, the big teams and players are always playing, so they might have more betting potential that Tier-3 real sports competitions.

CS:GO also experiences a substantial increase. In comparison, LOL and DOTA, some of the most popular titles in the esports world, with a solid base of computer enthusiasts’ fans, are not showing signs of betting growth, mainly because they require a more in-depth understanding of the rules and strategies, but they are still good options considering the context in which we operate in and their popularity.

Unfortunately, 2020 predictions have been thrown in the air, but the signs are great for the industry as a whole, and we are positive esports will gain more traction these upcoming months. If I am to be even more optimistically towards the future, I would say that even when the current sports crisis is over, a significant chunk of players will stick around and place bets on esports, in parallel with waging on their favorite real-life competitions.

Why should operators who haven’t considered esports be looking at it now? 

Operators with no esports offerings now are seeing the clear reason why it’s always important to have several revenue streams in place. Securing operational continuity and keeping player retention numbers up is of paramount importance during this crisis, as bookmakers already experience drops in turnover as big as 80% since the crisis started.

Here at OddsMatrix, we like to think that short term loss could become long term wins, if gaming operators have the necessary agility to bounce back and start taking alternative routes. This is exactly what we are now helping our clients do.

Given the current global situation, sports fans who weren’t aware of the existence of esports, had nothing to do with them or simply zero interest in that direction, are now reconsidering their options, so not capitalizing on this new-born interest is a strategical error which can cost bookmarkers a lot of resources.

More than half of the core audience of esports is represented by people with ages between 21-35, mostly high-income, full-time professionals, which gives bookmakers a rare opportunity to target and bring over a new audience. And this comes with the launch of many exciting events such as the virtual edition of the Australian Grand Prix, or NBA players joining NBA 2k and being broadcasted on live TV. We expect punters to bet more often as FIFA matches only take between 8-15 minutes while a football match last close to 2 hours.

Can you describe your esports presence right now, and how you see the market developing? 

OddsMatrix Esports Services offer operators the industry’s most extensive coverage of game titles and tournaments, with more than 25,000 pre-live events and 10,000 live events in April 2020, across 19 titles, including niche games like Rocket League and others.

We have expanded our video streaming capabilities, and now OddsMatrix is making available this feature for over 90% of the live events. Not to mention a huge range of specialized esports betting markets, which offer bettors vast possibilities.

Recently we’ve launched a new bespoke Esports Hosted Solution, which basically enables bookmakers to direct sports punters to esports by quickly adding on their website an extra tab or menu item, fully hosted and managed by OddsMatrix. The new solution can be integrated with any existing sportsbook in just two weeks, which gives a very important competitive edge.

In the short term, sports operators have now the opportunity to take advantage of OddsMatrix rapid integration method and start market their esports offering in 2020, to make up for the loss of real-life sports events.

On the long run, this is going to pay off in multiple ways – traditional sports bettors will discover new fun and engaging wagering options, while niched esports punters will be drawn as a new audience. What is now a fallback option shows signs to become an enduring and significant revenue source.

The original version of this interview has been published by 5 Star Media on April 12, 2020, under the title The new dawn of esports betting.

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