Esports Betting

Esports betting might have been a niche activity a few years ago but increased regulation in the past years and the adoption of esports betting as a full-fledged betting vertical by almost all reputable online gambling sites, made esports betting as popular and safe as wagering on american football, hockey or basketball. 

Betting on esports in 2020 was brought into the (supervised) light and now, CSGO, League of Legends or Call of Duty esports tournaments such as The International, IEM Katowice or LOL Worlds are as familiar as the Champions League or the Superbowl.

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Where to Bet on Esports Right now

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Masters Tournament
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Cobra
Immortal Gaming
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1.87
1.87
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1.76
1.76
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1.88
1.87
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1.88
1.87
Gold Occupation Invitational
2020-09-30T08:30:00.000Z
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Future
Team Lightning
Team Lightning Logo
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1.87
1.87
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1.89
1.86
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1.89
1.86
ESL India Premiership
2020-09-30T08:30:00.000Z
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BL4ZE
Global Esports
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2.17
1.61
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2.14
1.68
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2.14
1.68
2020 [FIFA] Liga Pro EFootball August - October
2020-09-30T08:35:00.000Z
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Pele Warriors
forZe
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1.73
2.88
Perfect World Asia League Summer 2020
2020-09-30T08:45:00.000Z
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Team Sigma
Tyloo
Tyloo Logo
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7.00
1.08
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8.50
1.06
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11.33
1.03
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10.00
1.06
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7.50
1.07
2020 [KoG] King Pro League Fall
2020-09-30T09:00:00.000Z
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GK Gaming
Weibo Turnso Gaming
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3.70
1.25
KPL Fall
2020-09-30T09:00:00.000Z
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GK Gaming
WB.TS Gaming
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4.26
1.21
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4.26
1.21
OGA PIT
2020-09-30T09:00:00.000Z
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1.18
4.43
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1.25
3.40
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1.40
2.80
2020 [DOTA] Dota Pit League China Season 2
2020-09-30T09:00:00.000Z
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1.40
2.81
LPL Pro League Season 2
2020-09-30T09:00:00.000Z
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Downfall
The Chiefs
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5.08
1.14
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4.65
1.16
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4.42
1.19
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5.50
1.14
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4.42
1.19
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4.75
1.13
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4.20
1.20

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What contributed to the rise of esports betting?

As the esports industry looks like it’s here to stay, we thought a short introduction to how it all started and how we ended up having gamers making as much as a professional footballer is necessary. Most esports aficionados like to connect the history of esports betting with the infamous CSGO skin betting as that was the first form of betting on esports known.

Although, not entirely inaccurate, skin betting was widely seen as shady, unregulated and sometimes outright illegal. Even though it was unscrutinized, skin betting put the spotlight on the huge potential of betting on esports such as CSGO and Dota and hurried-up the regulation and brought forth the era of esports betting as we know it today. Add to that an immense amount of money being poured into it by investors and brands and a global esports audience that grows on average by 16% year-on-year and you truly have a recipe for success.

2015

2015 was, based on a general consensus, the year when real-money betting on esports became its own thing. Some major online betting sites started offering a limited number of esports bets – sometimes just Moneyline bets – to their players. Back then, you could only bet on a few big or very big CSGO, DOTA 2 or LOL tournaments but slowly, as punters realised traditional betting is safer and more reliable than skin betting, they began to move towards regulated bookmakers. 2015 was also the year when esports made its first steps into mainstream media. On a Sunday April evening, ESPN streamed a collegiate-level Heroes of the Storm tournament final between UC Berkeley’s Golden Bears against Arizona State University’s Dream Team. The unprecedented broadcast left a few ESPN viewers baffled 🙂 :


2016

2016 brought the first big batch of regulatory moves from the UK Gambling Commission, Australia and France. Additionally, new lobbying groups were created such as Spain’s Federation of Esports, Germany’s BIU, the British Esports Association, and in Brazil, the ABCDE. Traditional sports clubs such as NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers acquired esports organizations Dignitas and Apex becoming the first American sports team to own an esports division while in Europe PSG, Fenerbahçe, and Schalke 04 launched their own esports teams. Another milestone worth mentioning: in the US, William Hill Sports Book became the first bookie in Las Vegas to accept legal wagers on esports matches. The eSports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) was formed in 2016 to ensure fair competition and regulation within eSports.


2017

In 2017, an esports market estimated to reach 655 million dollars by the end of the year, started to attract some big name investors. Crypto was the hottest thing around and Unikrn, a company that decided to combine esports, betting and crypto was making headlines. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of the TV show Shark Tank and Aston Kutcher were among the high-profile investors behind the company.

By that time, esports bettors could place under / over bets, handicap bets, correct match scores and so on. Blizzard was launching the Overwatch League and Team Liquid took home $10.9 million in prize money by winning Dota’s The International. On CSGO turf – IEM Katowice welcomed 173,000 people at the Spodek Arena becoming the largest esports event on record. In 2017, the International Olympic Committee discussed the possibility of including esports in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.


2018

In 2018, the esports industry was projected to reach almost a 1 billion US dollars in revenue and an audience of almost 400 million fans. Two numbers that made a lot of people want a piece of the pie and opening a massive new age of investments, deals and sponsorships. 

Big names in showbiz such as Drake and Sean “Diddy” Combs were among the big investors of the year. And boy, did they invest. Swift, Team SoloMid’s parent company raised $37m in a Series A funding round while Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and HP invested in Immortals LLC. Later in the year,Team Liquid managed to count Michael Jordan as one of its investors, raising a staggering $26 million in funding. 

As the ones directly involved in esport betting, betting sites logos started popping up on players’ jerseys with brands such as Betway, Unibet or LOOT.BET signing sponsorship deals with some of the biggest teams around. 

On the event organizer’s side –  PlayVS, the high school esports tournaments organizer received $30.5 million in a Series B funding. 2018 also saw a new game entering the esports arena. Fortnite, Epic Games’ breakout of the year was announced to have a whooping $100 million in prize pool for its 2018-2019 professional season. Fortnite was also the title that dominated the live streams in 2018. The episode that saw Ninja and Drake getting together and playing Fortnite on Twitch broke the previous record of 388,000 viewers for a single-player stream and hit 628,000 concurrent viewers at its peak on March 14, 2018.


2019

With the total esports market on track to surpass $1.1 billion and a global audience of over 200 million esports enthusiasts, 2019 was truly the year when esports became a mainstream phenomenon. Washington Post has now esports reporters, the Danish government presented their esports strategy and on the Tonight Show, Kyle Giersdorf “Bugha”, the winner of the inaugural Fortnite World Cup appeared on The Tonight Show in the wake of his success. 

Live stream consumption of esports increased almost exponentially, with esports viewership has increased by 50% compared to the previous year among internet users aged 16-64. Oh, and you know what else 2019 brought? More investments and big-brand partnerships. Gen.G announced a $46m funding round and Will Smith among its supporters, Louis Vuitton collaborated with Riot Games to create official LOL Worlds merchandise while Team Liquid announced Honda as its official automotive sponsor. Oh, and Valve set (once again) a new record for running the event with largest prize pool in esports raising almost $35 million for The International. 


2020

2020 is bound to be esports betting biggest year yet. Following a global pandemic that put a stop to all sports events, with stadiums closed and leagues cancelled, all eyes turned towards esports. Although still affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the esport scene was quick to adapt and moved all major events online avoiding any major disruptions. With all major football and basketball leagues suspended, traditional sports bettors turned to esports contributing to a staggering 4000% increase in esports bets placed until April. FIFA and NBA2k were the preferred esports to bet on, with 80% of the total volume of bets placed (Source). 2020 also brought a new contender in the realm or FPS esports in Valorant.

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Where can you bet on Esports?

Now, almost everywhere. All reputable betting companies have included at least a few big esports titles in their listings. It’s commonplace now to find the top CSGO, League of Legends or Dota 2 tournaments or leagues available to bet on but if you’re looking for more niche games or mobile titles such as King of Glory, Street Fighter or Arena of Valor then you’re best choice would be an esports-focus betting site. Operators such as Rivalry, LOOT.BET, Unkirn focus heavily on covering an extensive number of events and games. Here’s a quick overview of some of them:

Unikrn

As one of the first esport betting sites, Unikrn attracted a lot of attention in its early days thanks to an innovative concept that combines betting, esports and cryptocurrencies. Unikrn went as far as to develop their own crypto – Unikoin Gold (UKG) – that allowed players to shop or bet on the Unikrn platform. In 2019, Unikrn was named EGR’s Esports Bookmaker of the year, offering 24/7 gaming and esports betting for hundreds of esports matches. Unikrn UMode, is a regulator-approved skill betting mode where you can bet on your own games in competitive esport titles.

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LOOT.BET

As one of the first esport betting sites, Unikrn attracted a lot of attention in its early days thanks to an innovative concept that combines betting, esports and cryptocurrencies. Unikrn went as far as to develop their own crypto – Unikoin Gold (UKG) – that allowed players to shop or bet on the Unikrn platform. In 2019, Unikrn was named EGR’s Esports Bookmaker of the year, offering 24/7 gaming and esports betting for hundreds of esports matches. Unikrn UMode, is a regulator-approved skill betting mode where you can bet on your own games in competitive esport titles.

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Betway

As one of the first esport betting sites, Unikrn attracted a lot of attention in its early days thanks to an innovative concept that combines betting, esports and cryptocurrencies. Unikrn went as far as to develop their own crypto – Unikoin Gold (UKG) – that allowed players to shop or bet on the Unikrn platform. In 2019, Unikrn was named EGR’s Esports Bookmaker of the year, offering 24/7 gaming and esports betting for hundreds of esports matches. Unikrn UMode, is a regulator-approved skill betting mode where you can bet on your own games in competitive esport titles.

Top esports titles you can bet on

The game that brought us where we are today, or at least helped speed up things a bit, CSGO is the most popular esport title to bet on thanks to an established base of players, teams and events.

As a very strategic FPS, Counter-Strike uses factors such as economy, teamwork and communication to create a highly entertaining gameplay – both for the audience and players. In professional play, teams play in Best-of-30 matches, switching sides halfway through, meaning players need to master an asymmetrical gameplay as each side (the Terrorist and the Counter-Terrorist) have access to different weapons, win conditions, and strategies.

With an ever-growing calendar of events – most of them supported by Valve – that can offer up to $1M in prize pools, there’s no surprise, most esports organizations feature a CSGO roster. The biggest of them – and thus the ones you should keep in mind when betting on CSGO – include Fnatic, NAVI, Astralis, Cloud9 or Team Liquid.

The history of Dota 2 as an esport began with a two-years long beta phase. Not very exciting, but the title put that time to very good use as the game is seens as one of the best balanced esports out there.

In 2014, if anyone was still concerned about Dota 2 was here to stay, had their doubts obliterated. Dota 2 surpassed WOW as the most popular online game and announced the biggest prize for an esport tournament ever – $10.9 million prize pool for that year’s The International.

Dota 2 is a very strategic MOBA with hundreds of heroes to master each with their own specific role. Beside heroes, professional gamers need to know how to manage gold, items, abilities, specific map regions and timings. And that’s during gameplay. In Dota 2 matches can be lost before the game has actually started.

In professional competitions, Dota 2 is played using the Captain Mode – a draft feature that allows one player on each team to pick and ban heroes before the match starts. Some of the best Dota 2 teams today include Virtus.pro, Vici, Evil Geniuses and OG.

The other MOBA in the holy-trinity of esports is League of Legends. Riot Game’s title was launched in 2009, inspired by the original Defense of the Ancients and in the 11 years that passed, it became a worldwide phenomenon. It’s 2019 World Championship Finals was estimated to have a total audience of 21.8 million viewers. What League of Legends did for esports betting was to create an almost ideal competitive ecosystem similar to that of traditional sports. Professional LOL is played in a dozen franchised leagues around the world with Spring and Summer / Winter splits, weekly matches and even clearly defined salaries for players. That standardization meant League of Legends became an almost constant presence on all sportsbooks, regardless of their region.

Valorant is Riot Games’ newest title and, as a title built for esports, a serious contender for CSGO in the strategic FPS domain. The title was launched (with moderate success) in June 2020 but nevertheless, became one of the top games on Twitch, below CSGO but above Dota 2, Minecraft or FIFA 20. Valorant aimes to be a strategic shooter, utilizing concepts taken from various titles such as Overwatch, CSGO and even Rainbow 6 to create this hybrid gameplay that utilizes teamplay, good timings and hero abilities. If Riot’s recipe will prove to be a success or not, currently it’s too soon to tell.

FIFA, together with F1 and NBA2k, is one of the main sports-sims that managed to achieve a breakthrough in professional esports. With a competitive calendar revolving around FIFA eWorld Cup and its associated event, betting on FIFA is not as common, but for traditional bettors, it brings a certain amount of familiarity. As in football betting, you can wager on the Match Winner, Final Score, number of goals etc.
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The biggest esports tournaments you can bet on

If Superbowl or the Champions League will have a corresponding event in the esports scene it would probably be one of the events below. With audiences that rival those of the largest sports events, these CSGO, LOL and DOTA 2 tournaments are part of every respectable gambling site out there.
There’s no bigger or more noteworthy event in the professional League of Legends than the yearly LOL World Championship or “Worlds”. The tournament represents the culmination of the yearly LOL season, gathering all the best League of Legends teams from around the world. Hosted by Riot Games, “Worlds” is held in various locations on the globe with the 2020 edition being hosted by Shanghai.

Dota 2’s The International

There’s no tournaments in the history of esports that managed to set and break more records than Dota 2’s The International. Powered by one of the most devoted communities, the TI holds the record for the largest prize pool ever for an esport event – more than $30 million for its 2019 edition. The 2020 International, was set to take place at the Ericsson Globe arena in Stockholm this August but due to the recent COVID pandemic will no longer take place this summer and may be pushed back until 2021.

ESL Tournaments

ESL One tournaments, The Intel® Extreme Masters, the ESL Pro League are all major esports tournaments organized by ESL – the largest esports events company and organizer of numerous online and offline CSGO, DOTA 2, PUBG or Rainbow 6 competitions. ESL tournaments are a pinnacle of esports entertainment always featuring the best teams in the world and some of the largest prize pools. There’s hardly a month without an ESL qualifier or tournament so chances are, if you’re searching for an esports event to bet on, you’ll come across an ESL one.

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Types of Esport Bets

First Kill / First Blood

There’s not a gamer out there not familiar with the term First Kill. Made popular by team-based esports such as CSGO or Dota 2, the First Blood or First Kill bet is a bet on the team that will score the first kill of the map, game or round. This type of bet is one of the most exciting but challenging types of bets as it requires in-depth knowledge and a proper assessment of each team to predict if they start matches more aggressively or not. In esports that use a draft feature such as Dota 2, the team componence can have a major impact on this, as some heroes can be more inclined to achieve this than others.

 

Match Winner

There’s nothing more easy to understand than a Winner bet. For new punters, choosing the match winner is something that can be done without an abundance of research or knowledge.
For live betting fans, this type of wager is usually a clear favourite. Why, would you ask. Well, compared to the First Kill bet we talked about above which becomes unavailable once the event took place, betting on the Match Winner will remain available for almost the entire duration of the game.

 

Tournament or League Winner

Presuming your team is playing in one major tournament or esports league such as an ESL One event or one of the LOL leagues, you can bet on it to be proclaimed the tournament winner. Odds for these types of bets are usually better before the event starts or in its early stages and will tend to fluctuate as the matches progress. Astralis might be a favourite to win IEM Katowice but that might change if the Danish team gets off to a bad start at the Spodek Arena.

 

First Map / Round Winner

As most esports are played in rounds or in a Best out of X format, some online betting sites might offer esports wagers on the winner of the first round or map played. As the First Kill bet, this type of wager is considered a proposition bet – a term that rose in popularity in the USA – as it is a bet placed on the occurrence or non-occurrence of an event during a match but without any impact on the game’s final outcome.

 

Odd / Even Bets

Another type of proposition bet the odds / even bet deal with any sort of match feature to which you can attribute a number. In simpler terms odd / even bets allow you to wager on such elements such as the number of rounds played, total champions kills, towers destroyed, number of headshots etc. by trying to guess if they will be an odd or an even number. A very tricky wager to make and one that should only be attempted by professionals, this sort of bet requires extensive knowledge of each combatant’s history and a hefty dose of luck.

 

Over / Under Bets

Also called a Totals Bet, the Over / Under is a wager where you will try to guess if a specific occurrence will be over or under a certain threshold. Most esports betting sites will allow you to bet on the over/under of things such as total number of rounds, total number of kills, total number of dragon kills but it’s not uncommon to find other types of wager available.

 

Handicap Bets

It wasn’t long for various esports teams to be divided into clear favourites or underdogs and with that, the Handicap bets followed. Also known as line betting or points betting, these type of esports bets represent wagering are bets on the outcome of the game – similar to a Winner bet – but with the difference that the two teams are given a “handicap” – either positive or negative – before the game starts.

The “handicap” is a figure such as +1.0 or -1.0 that’s being added (or subtracted) goals from each of the two teams before kick-off. For example, if Ninjas in Pyjamas were favourites to beat Astralis, the bookmaker might give Astralis a 1-0 handicap advantage. That literally means that Astralis will start the game from 1-0. In a Best Of 5 event, that means Astralis will only have to win 2 other games while NIP will have to win 3. Betting sites offer handicap bets to make betting on underdogs (Astralis in the example above) more attractive.

Esports FAQs

Are esports considered sports?

Yes. As esports competitions follow the same format as traditional sports, with tournaments and matches between professional players or teams, they are considered a form of sport. As football or basketball, esports athletes are required to follow regular training sessions in order to maintain a high skill level and physical prowess. More over, with the surge in popularity of titles such as CSGO, Dota 2, League of Legends or Fortnite, esports have attracted millions of fans and, with them, millions of dollars in sponsorships from big brands such as Mercedes, Red Bull or Monster.

How esports betting work?

Betting on esports is no different than betting on ice hockey or baseball. Most esports bookmakers now offer esports odds to their players so if you're familiar with traditional betting, wagering on esports is simple. The most common type of odds offered for esports are the same as the ones offered for american football for instance. You can bet on the Match Winner, place an Over / Under wager and even a Handicap Bet. Depending on the esport you choose to bet, you can access special bets such as bet on the team that you think will be the first to kill the dragon in League of Legends or bet on whether the overall match will go over or under a certain number of rounds in CSGO.

How is esports disrupting the sports industry?

Esports' immense rise in popularity in the past years, especially among young adults is carried over in their viewing habits. According to YPulse research, 26% of 13-37-year-olds, and 32% of 13-18-year-olds, watch esports content every week. A similar study by technology consulting firm Activate estimates that, in United States, esports will have more viewers than almost all other traditional professional sports league but the NFL by next year. Their research estimates that esports will gather more than 84 million viewers, way higher than the 79 million MLB viewers or the 63 million NBA viewers. And that's not the only way esports disrupts the sports industry. With more people tuning-in to see Astralis, Ninjas in Pyjamas or OG, big brands are quick to follow. From automakers to snack companies, the list of non-endemic brands currently investing in esports includes Disney, Spotify, Toyota, Mastercard, Cheez-It, Hershey or Chipotle.