The roaring growth of the esports industry seems set to continue almost unabated in the coming years, with projections from leading industry researcher Newzoo suggesting that during 2024, esports’ annual global audience will reach a staggering 577.5 million figure.
Releasing the projections as widespread reports indicated a dramatic increase in esports viewership during the pandemic, Newzoo explains that “lockdown measures resulted in spiking viewership across all major platforms”.
Millions tuned in to watch individual tournaments, with the Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore drawing in a peak viewership of 5.41 million being the most viewed event so far.
Furthermore, several bodies representing traditional sports have given endorsed esports and indicated plans to expand into the format.
Recently, for example, the British Basketball League announced a multi-year partnership with Innovation Esports by which the company will develop, launch and deliver its inaugural BBL Gaming and Esports programme.
Given the major proliferation of these competitions and their expansion into new areas and sports, it seems only inevitable that esports gambling will rise in tandem.
In fact, to an extent, it seems the rise of esports gambling has already begun.
Many of the most reputable regulators around the world (including the Malta Gaming Authority) have introduced measures to regulate esports, including some in the same vein as those imposed on sports betting, which aim to protect the integrity of the competitions and fight against match-fixing.
According to the MGA’s annual report for 2020, esport betting experienced a “significant boost” as the COVID pandemic brought sporting events to a halt.
Identifying potential, some companies, such as Esports Technologies, are dedicated to developing purpose-built products for bettors – creating immersive wagering experiences so bettors can bet without ever leaving their browser.
Indeed, in June, this company filed a comprehensive provisional patent application which covered, amongst others, the proprietary technology that integrates sports and Esports wagering across many of the world’s most popular live-streaming platforms, including Twitch, YouTube, Amazon TV & Gaming, Facebook Gaming, and Hulu, among others.
More locally, Malta’s authorities, including especially GamingMalta, have sought to promote Malta’s Esports and Gaming Industry.
In late June, it announced it would be extending its partnership with HYPE Sports Innovation, and also extended its partnership will ESL, which will see Malta be the host location for the popular ESL Pro League in 2021.
Despite the potential, however, the rise of Esports betting is far from assured and in terms of market share compared to other forms of sports betting, its presence remains comparatively low.
The MGA, for example, records Gambling Revenue (GR) from Esports in a joint “other bets” category, which also includes betting on horses, motorsports and golf, and which together only generated 11.4 per cent of GR.
The International 2019, which saw one of the largest prize pots ever offered in an Esports competition. Image: The International/ Twitter
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