Esports are more popular than ever.
We have seen massive amounts of growth in viewership over the last few years. Consider this: in 2016 there was a stable of roughly 270 million eSports fans. Now in 2019, there are over 451 million pro gaming fans.
With such a large market, it is no wonder that the best sportsbooks around the world started lining out matches and putting up futures odds on the tournaments. But is it profitable? Another question to meditate on is which is the safer bet, eSports, or traditional sports?
Apples to Apples?
Global eSports betting revenue has already been projected to surpass the whopping 12.9 billion dollar mark by the end of 2019. This is huge, considering how relatively new eSports are. That said, it isn’t really comparable to traditional sports when we look at revenue.
In 2017, traditional sports betting saw a worldwide revenue of 104 billion dollars. By 2024, it is expected to reach past the 155 billion dollar mark. It’s going to take quite some time for eSports to get to that kind of level. That said, with it’s ever increasing popularity, it isn’t outside the realm of reason that one day eSports might overtake traditional sports in both industry revenue and gambling revenue.
What is comparable is the way we bet on traditional sports and esports. For both, there are standard money line bets, spreads, totals, props, and futures. Experts handicap the matchups and give an implied probability of victory … which is what we are looking at with the betting lines. Just like you might see the New England Patriots as -700 favorites over the NY Jets, you are likely to see similar numbers with Overwatch’s NY Excelsior vs. the Atlanta Reign. What both of these teams have in common is it is very likely that they will win (-700 is the implied probability of 87.5%) and it’s also quite apparent that -700 is not very profitable. If I risk 100 dollars at those odds, I only return $14.29 in profit.
So, this is where spreads and other betting markets come in, to even the odds and make it more profitable for both sides. They figure out how much they think the favored team is going to win by. For example, the Patriots must win by 12.5 points. An example of props would be wich LoL team will kill Baron first, while in American Football a common prop is which team will get on the scoreboard first.
So, now that you understand that the way we bet on regular sports and eSports is virtually the same, let’s get back to revenue.
An Advantage Because of Revenue?
Now, one is not necessarily more profitable than the other. With eSports and traditional sports, you have to pick your spots, play the long-game – create a season-long strategy for betting a specific sport and stick to it– and put some hard work into handicapping matches to find when and where there is value.
That said, the more money there is, the more attention the sportsbooks are going to pay into setting perfect lines. Because of this, you see a lot of professional betters sticking to small school college football or football (soccer) leagues that fly under the radar. Why? Because the books are more focused on the ‘big games’ that everyone is betting on and making sure they don’t lose millions at a time. So, the lines for smaller markets are more often hastily released. It’s what’s known as loose lines.
Because eSports revenue is a fraction of regular sports revenue, you have a higher chance of finding weak spots in the betting odds. This doesn’t mean that eSports are more profitable in general; it just means that if you become an expert, pay attention, and remain disciplined you are more likely to find betting lines where you have a definitive advantage, which is not as expected with an NFL game or Champions League match.
Like smaller sports betting markets, you may find more opportunities with eSports than you would with a marquee game. The same can be said within eSports. You’ll find looser lines on the smaller events than you will on say, The International, or LoL Worlds.