On March 11, 2020 the sports world came to a stop after the NBA cancelled a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz, announcing that a player on the Jazz contracted coronavirus. Players were quarantined and the Thunder were instructed not to leave the arena for several hours until they were given clearance. It was later announced that the player diagnosed with the disease was none other than Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Just days before Gobert appeared in a game against the Toronto Raptors despite feeling ill. He also cracked a joke about the coronavirus at a press conference sheepishly touching all of the microphones set up by reporters only to proceed to the locker room and touch the belongings of his fellow players, resulting in teammate Donovan Mitchell also getting sick.
The shutdown of the NBA was announced almost immediately after an every other major sports league around the world soon followed. While shutting down sports and all public gatherings was and still is the right thing to do during these COVID-19 times, the virus did leave gamblers without a live sport to bet on. The alternative is to bet on eSports, a trend that is certainly increasing as time goes on.
The question is, with the NBA set to resume action at the end of July and other sports leagues following suit, will eSports betting keep thriving when pro sports returns?
Why eSports Betting is Crucial to Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency
Twenty years ago, the idea of a professional video gamer earning $100,000 a year and being sponsored by a major beverage brand to play League of Legends or Counterstrike: Global Offensive was downright preposterous.
Today, the prize money involved in major tournaments is nothing to sneeze at and tournaments regularly fill stadiums full of video gaming fans cheering and booing their favorite teams. We’re talking 20,000 people packing in arena here.
With the prize money and viewership getting larger and larger it makes sense then that more and more people are taking an interest in betting on these events.
There are several reasons that keeping these people interested in eSports is crucial. Number one, it props up the digital currency betting industry during a time when there are no major sports on. Number two, it exposes more gamblers to the idea of betting on eSports as they look for ways to increase their bankroll. Thirdly, and most importantly, both the target audience for eSports betting and the target audience for those most likely to invest in Bitcoin and other digital currencies is the same. That is to say that people who play video games and by Bitcoin are likely young adult males with an interest in sports and technology, two things that Bitcoin sports betting combined very well.
How Much is Being Wagered on eSports vs. Traditional Sports?
It’s estimated that $5.5 billion was wagered on eSports in 2016. That number is split between three kinds of betting: cash bets, skins betting and crypto betting. This year that number is expected to be $12.9 billion.
To put that into perspective, gamblers wagered more than $368 billion in 2011 on traditional sporting events. While a nice chunk of that money, just under $32 billion came from regulated online gambling, the other $336 billion came from off-line gambling.
Given that crypto adoption is still a long ways away from seeing individuals using it at every brick-and-mortar store or casino on a regular basis every day, the fact that online gambling is way more popular in 2020 than it was in 2011 is only part of what the crypto world needs to see in order for betting and crypto to be just as popular as doing it with cash. But of course the real question is, will eSports wagers remain stable when sports returns?
The answer to that is most likely yes. Most serious crypto gamblers who bet on traditional sports do it because they are fans of traditional sports, but not every sports gambler is a fan of video games, or at least not enough to bet on it. So while some sports gamblers are certainly feeding their need for wagering with eSports, serious gamblers who are in the game to make money probably aren’t throwing down as much of their crypto on video games as they are on the return of baseball or the NBA for instance.
Still, the numbers prove that both eSports wagering and traditional sports wagering are here to stay, whether those wagers are placed in cryptocurrency or not.