eSports generated revenues of $325 million last year, and that's just the start, say experts
Gambling companies are increasingly eyeing the booming eSports sector as a possible source of new revenues, reports the publication CNBC, claiming that betting on computer game competitions generated global revenue of $325 million in 2015 from media rights, merchandising, ticket sales and advertising, according to market researchers Newzoo.
The Eilers research company's latest study on eSports predicts wager turnover of $23.5 billion by 2020, which could give operators an additional 1.8 billion.
The CNBC article quotes business reportage from online gambling group Bwin, which revealed that the firm is expecting more bets to be made on upcoming "League of Legends" tournaments than on which team would win the European Champions League football this year.
The piece quotes Alex Igelman of Gaming Research Partners, who observes: "E-sports has matured over the past few years to the point that it is now on par with some of the leading major sports in terms of viewership, following and interest. Many of the world's leading bookmakers regularly take bets on numerous eSports matches and although in its infancy, the betting volume already exceeds that of golf, tennis and rugby and is rapidly growing."
Lorien Pilling, research director of Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, told CNBC that there are some obstacles to continued development, pointing out that some of the key markets for e-sports are Asia and North America (U.S.) — two regions that have prohibitive regulation on betting and from which many firms will not take bets/customers.
Pilling was also sceptical that horseracing and sports bettors would convert to betting on e-sports, meaning operators would have to advertise to a completely different audience.
"Sportsbooks will need to engender a betting interest in e-sports' core audience, which is perhaps not immediately identifiable as a sports betting one," he explained. "But attracting a new audience is no bad thing for a sportsbook."
Steve Bailey, senior games analyst for IHS Technology, opined that eSports may struggle to expand beyond its core audience of video game fans.
"The key issue with broadening e-Sports appeal is that the very things that make it exciting to current audiences may very well be off-putting for many other audiences," he said.
"The tournament-like pitch of excitement is driven by combative, reflex-dependent showdowns. Ditto the culture of controversy and stardom that surrounds it all."
Despite these obstacles, most experts remained optimistic about eSports potential as a betting vertical.
"There is no reason why e-sports should not become a meaningful and profitable part of a sportsbook's portfolio," said Pilling. "E-sports tournaments are competitive, exciting, fast-paced events, with a live crowd creating atmosphere, just as at a 'traditional' sports event like a football match."
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