Esports betting has definitely obtained worldwide popularity. It’s now featured at most online sportsbooks throughout the industry.
But esports gambling doesn’t seem to be drawing much love in the United States. As states rush to approve sports betting, they’re hesitant to adopt esports wagering as well.
Several factors seem to be holding politicians back from approving this form of betting. With that said, I’ll discuss five reasons why states have been slow to legalize esports gambling.
1 – Some of the Pros Are Younger Than 18
Esports is unique in that plenty of professional players are younger than 18 years old. In fact, certain esports pros are as young as 13.
Minors becoming professionals isn’t completely unheard of in the sports world. After all, notable athletes have turned pro well before their 18th birthday.
However, a larger percentage of professional video gamers are minors relative to other sports and competitions. This aspect creates an ethical debate among politicians who review esports betting.
The US is staunchly against people betting on high school sports. Neither the national government nor any states believe that athletes younger than 18 should be involved in betting either directly or indirectly.
It’s safe to say that lawmakers aren’t fans of how plenty of underage esports pros exist in the first place. The state of Indiana excludes esports gambling from its market for this very reason.
Others started to have legalized esports betting with some restrictions in place. For example, New Jersey only allows bets on gaming contests where participants are 18 or older.
The majority of states still aren’t sure what to do about esports wagering in general. They’re currently deciding whether this type of betting is even ethical.
2 – Esports Gambling Isn’t a Traditional Market
Many states were ecstatic when the Supreme Court lifted a national ban on sports gambling in May 2018. Removing this ban paved the way for state governments to capitalize on betting.
Of course, lawmakers and entrepreneurs weren’t thinking about esports when they got excited about legal wagering. Instead, they saw an opportunity to cash in on mainstream sports, such as baseball, basketball, hockey, and football.
They have the potential to become even more popular and surpass some primary sports in the future. For now, though, video gaming is still in the growth phase.
Most states don’t really care much about esports betting right now. They’re still either taking advantage of or envisioning the possibilities with mainstream sports.
3 – Bookmakers Aren’t Begging for Esports
Sportsbooks can push for permission to offer certain markets. For example, bookmakers have successfully gained the right to offer Oscars betting in some states.
Online sportsbooks can petition their respective gambling regulatory bodies to allow esports betting. By and large, though, operators haven’t been in a rush to do so.
The Nevada Gaming Commission reported very few sportsbooks requesting permission to offer esports betting. This situation changed in 2020.
But the lack of previous demand highlights a serious problem with esports gambling. Most operators don’t see gaming competitions as essential to their businesses.
As a result, esports betting still feels like a niche market for in-person betting. It will probably continue feeling this way until the industry pushes for more rights to offer esports gambling.
4 – Some Esports Fans Aren’t Old Enough to Gamble
Most esports fans are in the age demographic of 18 to 34. According to marketing research, the average fan is 26 years old.
This age is well within the legal gambling requirement in any state or country that features a betting market. Even still, a large number of esports fans are younger than 21 or even 18.
States require bettors to be anywhere from 18 to 21 years old. Therefore, some of the biggest gaming fans get cut out of the betting pool.
Lawmakers are already on the fence about approving esports gambling for the reasons outlined before. They also don’t want to go through the trouble of examining this type of wagering if large numbers of fans can’t even bet.
Underage people who love esports today will grow older and eventually be able to bet. But for now, they are just too many hardcore fans who can’t legally wager.
5 – Politicians Are Slow to Adapt
Sports betting was originally banned on a federal level in 1992. Lawmakers passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which effectively outlawed sports gambling in all but four states (grandfathered in).
It wasn’t until 2018 that the Supreme Court finally overturned this law. Many states immediately took this opportunity to legalize sports gambling.
Others are in the process of getting legislation passed. However, a good portion of states still aren’t even close to legalizing betting over two years after the fact.
Politicians and gaming regulators are slow to pass new forms of gambling. Considering that esports betting is much newer than traditional sports wagering, it’s not getting much of a look from state legislators right now.
I’m not criticizing gaming regulators and politicians for taking their time. After all, these officials have a lot on their plates.
Instead, I’m merely pointing out that the slow legislation process is another obstacle standing between esports wagering and the public.
What Must Happen for More Esports Gambling Regulation?
Esports betting hasn’t quite taken off, but won’t remain on the backburner forever. In fact, it should become a viable part of the betting market if the following occurrences happen sooner rather than later.
Compromise on the Age Issue
Young esports players aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While the average pro’s age may be 25, there are still plenty of talented players who are younger than 18. With that said, politicians must compromise on the age matter.
New Jersey found a nice way to balance this issue out. After initially rejecting esports as part as their betting market, the Garden State reversed their decision.
However, they did include a caveat in their regulation. Bookmakers can only take bets on competitions where most or all participants are 18 years old (there’s some leeway here).
Not every state will follow New Jersey’s model to a T. But the Garden State does show one way to work around the age issue.
More Demand Among Bookmakers
Will esports betting interest among sportsbooks continue after this year? Only time will answer this question.
But the organic demand must be higher in order for regulated bookmakers to highlight esports markets. This should happen naturally, though, within the next several years.
Esports Is Growing so Much That It Can’t Be Ignored
The growth of esports has been tremendous in recent years. Competitive gaming has grown from something that was only popular in a few countries to being a global phenomenon.
Of course, esports still don’t quite surpass soccer, basketball, nor baseball on a mainstream scale. But there are definitely signs that it could pass at least one or more of these sports soon.
Nobody truly knows the limit for esports popularity. All that’s known is that video gaming continues to see higher and higher viewership numbers. Eventually, every state with a betting market is going to notice these growing numbers.
Traditional sports continue to dominate American betting markets. Baseball, basketball, football, hockey, MMA, and soccer keep drawing politicians’ attention.
Esports, meanwhile, are considered an iffy, niche market by lawmakers. They feature too many underage pros and aren’t considered a top priority among most bookmakers right now either.
However, this situation should definitely change in the near future. With increasing viewership numbers and more sportsbooks inquiring about the matter, esports betting looks to be rising in regulated markets.