Approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide play video games on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s only natural that some of these same gaming enthusiasts like watching and gambling on the pros.
Esports betting has taken off in recent years. In fact, it’s now a multibillion-dollar industry, and it only figures to get more popular in the coming years.
Some states in the US have capitalized on this popularity by including esports in their legalized betting markets. Even still, esports gambling just doesn’t seem to be taking off in America now.
What gives? Below, you can see five reasons why the industry has been slow to materialize.
1 – Sports Betting Is the Primary Agenda
Offshore sportsbooks have been offering these bets for professional gamblers for over a quarter century. Now, however, marks the first point where states can choose to offer legal betting.
The Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018. PASPA previously banned sports betting on a federal level.
Over a dozen states have already taken advantage of their right to offer regulated sports wagering. More than a dozen others are either mulling over doing the same or have legislation in the pipelines.
Therefore, state politicians are focused on what traditional sports gambling can do for them, not what the video gaming side has to offer.
Very few politicians even realize what a hit esports are in other parts of the globe. They simply want to ensure that proper regulations are in place for betting on standard sports.
Gaming may have its time in the sun one day. However, that day could be years off when considering the youth of US sports betting.
2 – Underage Players Could Sink Esports in Some States
Esports feature a strange dynamic where young people can compete with seasoned professionals. Video games don’t require one to be muscular, fast, or physically mature.
Instead, anybody with fast reflexes and dedication can take a shot at becoming a good gamer. It doesn’t matter if they’re 14 and weigh 98 pounds either.
The professional gaming world features various pros under the age of 18. These underage professionals are nothing new to esports.
However, US lawmakers aren’t so familiar with the concept. Every state with legal sports gambling so far bans wagering on high school and middle school athletes.
Esports presents a murkier situation. One on hand, most pro gaming organizations fully recognize young players. This differs from sports leagues, such as the NBA, NFL, and NHL, which impose age requirements.
Certain states have approved esports betting regardless, including Nevada, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Indiana, however, explicitly bans wagering on competitive gaming.
Arkansas, Delaware, New York, and Mississippi offer vague legal language on the subject. No bookmakers in these states are offering esports lines until a decision is made one way or the other.
Beyond the age factor, politicians are struggling to define the exact nature of video gaming. Is it a sport? A skill-based contest? Pure entertainment with prize money on the line?
Many involved with the industry believe that gaming is a sport. However, those that make the laws carry the biggest weight here.
3 – Potential for Match Fixing
Match fixing is the main reason why sports wagering was banned in American in the first place. Prominent leagues feared that legal betting had the potential to corrupt participants.
Of course, fears of match fixing still exist to some degree. These worries especially persist regarding esports.
According to a 2018 piece by The Guardian, match fixing is “incredibly widespread” in esports. Ian Smith, a UK-based lawyer who serves as the integrity commissioner at Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC), spoke with the Guardian about this subject.
“If you’re looking at sporting integrity, in esports, you’ve really got to look at betting fraud and match-fixing as the biggest threats, […] It’s incredibly widespread. The epicenters of eSports are Southeast Asia, so China and South Korea in particular, and the US — the two biggest illegal gambling places in the world. And all the evidence I get through from suspicious bet alerts indicates that fixing in China is rife.”
The biggest scandal to rock esports came in 2016. StarCraft player Lee “Life” Seung-Hyun fixed matches despite already being a high-paid professional.
He received an 18-month prison sentence in a South Korean courtroom. Blizzard Entertainment also stripped Lee of his WCS Championship.
Lee’s incident isn’t the only reason for the match-fixing worries, though. Underage players theoretically appear susceptible to potential bribes, especially if they don’t earn a high salary.
Tennis has the same problem due to its young players and rampant corruption concerns. However, it’s also a more established sport that’s been around since the 1800s.
4 – Most American Gamblers Are Interested in Traditional Sports
Esports popularity continues picking up steam in the US. Research from Syracuse University’s business school suggests that esports will draw more viewers than every American professional sport, except the NFL, by 2021.
However, the average sports fan still seems interested in gambling on traditional sports at this time. The MLB, NBA, and NFL drive American betting. Boxing, golf, the NHL, MLS, and tennis also draw plenty of gambling action.
Esports have already found a niche in this sports wagering market too. As mentioned before, offshore bookmakers feature plenty of esports lines.
Major events such as the League of Legends (LoL) “World Championships” and Dota 2’s “The International” especially attract lots of bets.
However, esports lines aren’t as consistently available as what’s seen with traditionally popular American sports. This situation isn’t going to change with regulated sportsbooks.
5 – Regulation Has Slowed for Now
Sports betting regulation has been exciting for gambling enthusiasts so far. They finally have legal and licensed sportsbooks to bet with.
Some states rushed to serve these bettors after PASPA fell. However, the number of states legalizing sports gambling ever since has slowed considerably.
Of course, many legislatures are going to approve the matter eventually. But the enthusiasm has waned with many states taking a while to legalize betting.
Esports gambling goes as sports wagering does. It can only become legal if it’s attached to a larger bill involving traditional sports.
Bills in many states have failed. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas are examples of states that chose not to push sports wagering through.
It’s unclear when, if ever, these places will come back around. Maine, Massachusetts, and Ohio, meanwhile, have active legislation but no decision on if they’ll allow sports betting.
Will US Esports Betting Boom Soon?
Esports betting has already boomed to some degree. Once a completely niche offering, it has attained more prominence at offshore sportsbooks.
Whether this same success translates to the regulated American market remains a mystery. After all, competitive gaming has some hurdles that it must overcome to gain widespread acceptance.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock is that esports aren’t a top priority among politicians. Sports gambling is still fairly new and draws the most attention.
Even states that have legalized sports wagering are getting their markets settled. Those that haven’t done so may be waiting for years before they approve sports betting.
Of course, more states will need to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps for esports wagering to be a huge success. New York and their newly minted market could go a long way toward giving competitive gaming a boost.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are other key players that might make or break esports gambling in the early stages.
The good news is that you can gamble on esports in the US. The bad news is that the regulated market is off to a lukewarm start.
You can still count on offshore sportsbooks to provide lines on competitive gaming. If you live in a regulated state, though, then you may be waiting for serious action.
New Jersey has their act together regarding esports betting, as well as sports gambling in general. Other states will likely improve at or near their level as the market continues maturing.
Until then, you can continue wagering at offshore esportsbooks or at legal and licensed bookmakers in regulated states.