What is esports betting?
As with almost every aspect of daily life, the global coronavirus pandemic caused massive disruption to the professional sporting calendar; it is only within the last few days and weeks that competitive play has begun to return, albeit in fits and starts. The suspension of organised sports removed the potential to engage in one of the most popular global activities: sports betting. During this time there has been evidence of migration from sports betting to other gambling activities, such as online casinos, betting on the weather, and esports betting.
Although international esports tournaments have suffered alongside traditional sporting events, with no opportunity for large, physically-attended events, the very nature of esports means that physically-distanced competition can continue unabated. Consequently, we have seen professional Formula 1 drivers compete in Sim-racing competitions alongside established esports professionals. We have also witnessed the organisation of esports tournaments by national leagues, including the Premier League and NBA, which feature stars of real-life teams competing against one another. In addition, there have been other organisations, such as NASCAR, who have shifted their entire structure online during the enforced lockdown. Finally, in a complementary move, the visibility of virtual sporting events has significantly increased, with the “Virtual Grand National” being watched live on national television by almost 5 million UK viewers. Virtual sports differ from esports in that the latter features individuals who compete against one another, with the interactions being digitally mediated, whereas in the former the action is entirely simulated and there is no input from individual players.
Whilst publicly available information on the scale of esports betting during the coronavirus pandemic is currently scarce, what little there is suggests a significant increase – primarily driven by the migration of sports fans to the esports equivalent: from football to FIFA, Basketball to NBA2K, and so on. This move has raised many questions about the future of esports betting, including whether or not these new followers will continue to bet on esports after traditional sports resume, and will the increased visibility of esports attract new gamblers to non-sporting titles such as CS:GO or DOTA 2?
Whilst the future of esports betting has come into much sharper focus as a result of the global pandemic, it is important to remember that the existing body of academic research into esports betting practices is still developing. In a recently-published study we investigated how demographics, alongside the consumption of video games, esports and gambling products can predict esports betting activity. Results revealed that both spectating esports and participation in general forms of gambling are associated with increased esports betting, however, no direct association was observed between the consumption of video games and esports betting. These findings suggest that while games may act as a vehicle for gambling content, there is no intrinsic aspect which directly encourages gambling behaviours.
What predicts esports betting? A study on consumption of video games, esports, gambling and demographic factors
Reference: Macey, J., Abarbanel, B., & Hamari, J. (2020). What predicts esports betting? A study on consumption of video games, esports, gambling and demographic factors. New Media & Society, doi: 10.1177/1461444820908510.
See the paper for full details:
The parallel media related to sports, gaming and gambling are expanding, exemplified by the emergence of esports and game-related gambling (e.g. loot boxes, esports betting). The increasing convergence of these phenomena means it is essential to understand how they interact. Given the expanding consumer base of esports, it is important to know how individuals’ backgrounds and consumption of game media may lead to esports betting. This study employs survey data (N = 1368) to investigate how demographics, alongside consumption of video games, esports and gambling can predict esports betting activity. Results reveal that both spectating esports and participation in general forms of gambling are associated with increased esports betting, no direct association was observed between the consumption of video games and esports betting. Findings suggest that while games may act as a vehicle for gambling content, highlighting the convergence of gaming and gambling, there is no intrinsic aspect which directly encourages gambling behaviours.