Research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming has forecast that the global eSports betting market would reach $6.7 billion in 2018, and possibly attain new heights in 2020 by reaching $13 billion.
Currently, eSports bookmakers operate in several jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom and Spain in Europe, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand in the Oceania region. All of the above regions have active and mostly regulated sports betting industries, which has allowed alternative bookmakers to dip their toes and probe the eSports waters.
The United States prohibits online eSports betting because it falls under the remit of sports betting, and bookmakers are banned in the country. However, Nevada and New Jersey are trying to change by leading a sports betting offensive.
The industry has been heavily regulated since 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act came into force to stop ‘gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.’
Nevada and New Jersey remain legal grey areas where eSports is concerned. Meanwhile, the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have both endorsed electronic sports.
The NBA is also seeking a federal regulation on sports betting (which could by extension lead to a framework for betting on the outcome of video games competitions). The NFL stance remains aligned with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s historical opinion that the organisation does not champion sports betting. However, Mr Goodell has never gone so far as to say that the NFL opposes it.
If there is a downside to eSports betting, it is skin gambling. Developer studio Valve was dragged into class-action suit filed by the parents of an adolescent who had lost thousands of dollars on skins. In the churn of events, CSLounge and Dota2Lounge were handed cease and disease letters along with dozens of others and were forced to shut their operations.
Meanwhile, eSports betting continue to be a grey area in Delaware and Pennsylvania, bringing the total number to four. Nevada is awaiting a US Supreme Court decision, which may see eSports gambling assume the same status all across the country.
Even if the United States lax the rules on eSports gambling, any future growth may be slow and painful because of the nature of potential customers, mostly underage fans.