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2019

From Fans to Players: How Esports Betting Is Blurring Casino and Gaming Lines

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Esports, or organized video game competitions, are more popular than ever, with the market projected to reach $4.3 billion by the end of this year. Major events like the League of Legends World Championship draw hundreds of millions of viewers.

Top 5 Esports Tournaments

  • The International (Dota 2)
  • League of Legends World Championship
  • Fortnite World Cup
  • Evolution Championship Series (Evo)
  • Overwatch League Grand Finals

In Canada, the most successful esports team is Luminosity Gaming, which has won an incredible $1.34 million in prize money. This rapid growth has led many casinos and sportsbooks to offer betting on esports competitions. Wagering on esports brings together the worlds of traditional gambling and gaming in new and exciting ways.

Esports betting functions similarly to traditional sports betting. Oddsmakers analyze teams, players, and matchups to set lines. Bettors can wager on outcomes like which team will win a match or tournament. With so many esports matches and markets to bet on, esports betting appeals to dedicated fans and casual gamblers alike.

Attracting Younger Demographics

A major incentive for casinos offering esports betting is reaching younger demographics like millennials. Esports draws a crowd that is younger on average than traditional sports fans. The esports audience skews young, 18 to 44, which makes it as popular as ice hockey and baseball.

With casino revenue stagnating in recent years, the industry sees esports betting as a way to attract new generations. Established online casinos in British Columbia now operate esports books, and many smaller casinos are also making moves to offer esports betting online and potentially in lounges.

Bringing casinos and esports together may create new fans on both sides. Gambling on matches could increase esports viewership, while exposure to gaming may get more young adults interested in casino games.

Esports Partnerships

To build their esports business, casinos and bookmakers are partnering directly with video game publishers. In 2016, organizers of the League of Legends Championship Series announced a deal making Unikrn an official esports betting partner.

These partnerships provide casinos with official data feeds and branding opportunities with popular esports leagues and tournaments. Game publishers also grant integrity fees to ensure matches remain fair with betting activity.

For video game companies, it brings new revenue streams and further legitimizes esports as a professional competition.

As wagering becomes more ingrained, esports will likely take on similarities to major traditional sports leagues in business model and culture.

Converging Experiences

As betting brings esports fans to casinos, gaming-themed promotions aim to attract casino patrons to video games. Slot machines with esports branding and themes are popping up on casino floors across North America, as well as online.

Some casinos are designing dedicated esports lounges with gaming stations for customers to play popular titles. Special tournaments and viewing parties for events like the League of Legends Worlds also merge casino hospitality with esports spectating.

On the casino gaming side, social elements and skill-based gameplay popular in video games are now influencing slot and table game design. This aims to attract younger gamers used to interactive, multiplayer experiences.

The connections between video gaming and gambling are likely to continue growing. With esports betting, the casino and gaming industries can complement each other, blending their audiences and experiences together.

Regulation Playing Catch Up

One challenge facing the esports betting industry is regulation. Most jurisdictions do not yet have frameworks for specifically regulating betting on competitive gaming. Some consider esports as a game of skill rather than chance, complicating gaming law.

Nevada was the first US state to fully legalize esports betting in 2017. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and several other states now permit it but with minimal policy. Countries like the UK, Australia, and parts of Europe have advanced regulatory systems for esports wagering. Esports betting is legal in Canada.

Clear policy helps ensure proper consumer protections for esports bettors. As the practice expands, regulators globally will need to enact updated rules and oversight for these hybrid gaming/gambling activities. Proper regulations allow the merging markets to grow responsibly.

Ongoing Cultural Shifts

Esports betting represents wider cultural shifts as gaming becomes mainstream entertainment. A younger generation that grew up with video games is more receptive to crossover with casinos. The desire for interactive, skill-based experiences is changing gambling preferences.

There are still cultural barriers between the gaming and gambling spheres. But the lines are blurring through shared commercial interests and changing consumer attitudes. With the right regulation, this crossover could be beneficial by expanding both markets and forging new entertainment concepts.

The increasing integration of video gaming and casino gaming shows how different forms of play and competition converge. As esports betting accelerates these shifts, it will be fascinating to see how the historically separate domains continue fusing into new hybrid entertainment models.

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