eSports Betting: The Next Big Wagering Trend
Betting On The Newest Sport – Video Games
Video games have always been a competitive pursuit, beginning with Pong. The arcade scene blew up when Street Fighter 2 became a worldwide phenomenon. Players created tournaments and challenged each other to money matches, wagering on the best digital martial arts master. LAN gaming supported the first serious Quake tournaments, creating the very first eSports wordlwide celebrity: Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel.
As video game and communication technology progressed, eSports grew. The ability to livestream games to fans over the internet exploded viewership and engagement. Prior to the wide availability of broadband internet, video game broadcasts consisted of camcorders and dubbed VHS tapes mailed across the world, which barely sustained a cult following.
South Korea was the first country to consider video games as a mainstream, spectator sport. The nation embraced StarCraft, broadcasting major tournaments over national television. Academies trained promising South Korean players who showed the dedication and APM potential to compete at the highest level. Champions became household names like NFL and NBA stars in North America, earning enough money to retire after their competitive video game career.
South Korean enthusiasm for competitive games spread across the world, sparking a global eSports boom. As early adopters, the country enjoys a noticeable competitive edge, including top players in StartCraft, League of Legends, Overwatch, DoTA, Street Fighter and Tekken. Like any other sport, South Koreans gamble on their favorite video game players.
This aspect of eSports also spread across the world.
More Than A Skins Game
In North America, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the most popular eSport to bet on, with plenty of fans spending real money to wager on tournaments matches streamed on Twitch.Tv.
The publisher of CS: GO and company behind the Steam gaming platform is Valve, owned by multibillionaire Gabe Newell. Part of the revenue model for this game involve skins, which decorate weapons, armor and items in the game. Rare, high-demand skins command thousands of real dollars, coveted by millions of fans, streamers and pros.
Valve publishes an open API which allows external sites to create products and services linked to the Steam platform. For CS: GO, developers created tools which make conversion of skins to real currency fast and easy. This facilitates betting on tournament results, allowing people to stake skins on odds, and collect money if they win.
This represents a completely unregulated betting market, one which doesn’t attempt to prevent minors from wagering on their favorite video game. The most unscrupulous operators allow people to wager skins in online casino games, including slots and coin flips. CS: GO YouTube celebrities have sunk as low as posting fake win videos to make skins gambling appear more profitable.
Instead of cutting off this illegal behavior, Valve continues to facilitate through the open API, benefitting from a red-hot skins market. Legitimate, regulated sportsbooks offer eSports betting, reporting explosive growth in handles over the past year.
However, much of the growth in North America was traced to skins betting and a new gambling demographic joining the market: teens under the legal gambling age.
eSports Doomed To Repeat History?
There’s no doubt that eSports is the next big betting trend. The only question remains is whether the industry will learn from mistakes made in the past.
Similar to major sports leagues, like the MLB and Serie A football in Italy, matchfixing and insider betting have tainted StarCraft and CS: GO betting. These scandals were taken seriously, leading to lifetime bans and even jail time for one of the biggest eSports celebrities.
As eSports continues to mature, video game companies and eSports teams need to remain mindful of the past. Regulating the industry to reflect modern sportsbooks standards would go a long way in protecting minors and increasing the legitimacy of eSports.
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