In 2020, sport and event related betting has largely ground to a halt or been thoroughly diminished by the global pandemic. With one exception. Due to its nature, eSports betting, already growing significantly in recent years, continues to rise. And the absence of other sports is leading millions of new people, and punters, to give eSports and online casinos a look – the latter of which we’ll largely explore first.
The Rise of Top Online Casinos
The lack of sporting events due to the pandemic is a great loss for sports gamblers and spectators alike. However, both eSports betting and the top online casinos were rising in popularity even before this tragic event unfolded, and both of these are viable alternative options for gamblers who were looking forward to major sports only to find seasons cancelled, postponed, or curtailed.
The recommended gambling sites here have many games for eSport lovers, from interactive online slots to roulette and blackjack. This includes live dealer games for a truly immersive experience, as well as the odd VR game (especially as online sites work to bridge that gap too).
The top online casinos have been able to weather the 2020 lockdown restrictions without issue due to their ephemeral nature, which feeds into other advantages for gamblers looking to try new things. Most are now designed to be fully compatible with mobiles, so whether you prefer tablet or smartphone it’s never been easier to access top casinos.
And, unlike brick-and-mortar establishments, the best online gambling sites never close, so if work’s keeping odd hours you don’t need to worry about the doors being shut. You can even use your smartphone to play for a few minutes at a time during commercial breaks – research indicates that one in three smartphone owners already use their devices whilst watching TV). This is also something where such sites trump both sports and eSports betting, which have frequent contests but not quite the same level of flexibility.
Those trying out the best casinos for the first time can also benefit from the competitive nature of the industry driving the development of welcome bonuses. New players can usually find golden hellos, from no deposit promotions to match bonuses. Internet casino games also usually have free demo modes so you can try them out without playing for money.
There’s a constant effort to create new games, including sports-themed slots and table games. In addition, many top international casinos offer virtual sports to bet on (including horse racing, soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and more).
Top Online Casino Games for eSports Fans
Combine slots with modern gaming technology when you play Gonzo’s Quest VR by NetEnt. The slot follows conquistador Gonzalo Pizzaro’s quest to find the lost city of El Dorado amidst the South American jungle. All you need do is plug in and play with your VR headset of choice to enjoy this real time 3D slot, which comes with top notch graphics and sound plus innovative gameplay.
Another NetEnt VR slot, ideal for newcomers, is Starburst VR. This fast-paced and energetic video slot comes with a futuristic backdrop and engaging sound effects, plus arcade style mechanics that eSports fans might find particularly appealing.
Viking Runecraft is an EGR Game of the Year nominee that lets players battle alongside Norse gods Thor, Odin, and more in a quest for riches and levelling up. There’s a huge maximum win, and an epic Ragnarok bonus game, as well as gifts every time you level up.
Space Invaders is arguably the single most iconic arcade game of all time, and is available at the top online casinos that use Playtech. Harking back to the original game, there’s a weapon moving beneath the reels which can turn other symbols into wilds, potentially creating wild winning combos worth twice as much. The pixelated graphics and retro sound effects are very much on theme for gamers.
League of Legends fans fond of dragons might especially like Double Dragons, by Yggdrasil. This 25 payline slot is packed with bonus features, including free spins, as well as a good RTP and maximum prize.
Global eSports Growth
Some sports are more international than others. Whilst soccer is the top global sport, domestic competitions are its mainstay. Formula 1 is very international by nature, but perhaps not even F1 can match eSports when it comes to being a truly international sport. Players can come from just about any country in the world, unified by playing games that are accessible to billions of people.
China is one of the world’s global powerhouses, and it’s estimated to have an eSports industry worth around $3bn. In just a few years the number of leagues has increased tenfold, rising from 10 in 2016 to more than 100. Chinese growth has been helped by some superstar players, and by substantial financial and industry muscle. Firms such as Tencent have stakes in many major gaming developers, helping to drive interest in eSports. Increasing audiences have also fuelled sponsorship interest, creating a virtuous circle whereby ever rising prize funds create greater incentives for players and attract more top talent.
An example of this can be clearly seen with the inaugural Fortnite World Cup, where the top prize was a rather tasty $3m. The World Cup was held shortly after the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and the scope of eSport’s success can be revealed by the fact that the Fortnite top prize exceeded that received by the winners of Wimbledon’s singles titles. Every top four finisher in the Fortnite World Cup ended up becoming a millionaire overnight.
Even countries that are traditionally reluctant to engage with gambling have been taking tentative steps towards accepting eSports, and betting on it. In March 2020, the state of Nevada approved the desire for sports betting firms to be allowed to take bets on eSports. As with certain other aspects of betting, the USA is behind the rest of the world, but with China, Canada, and Europe already very interested in eSports, it’s only a matter of time before other states follow Nevada’s lead.
Rising Interest and the Pandemic Effect
Interest in eSports has been growing rapidly, but somewhat under the radar of much of the media. In 2019, for example, the total worldwide audience of eSports was an enormous 454 million people. Compare this to Formula 1 (of that year), which had an audience of 490 million people and has been going for about 70 years, and it seems almost inevitable that eSports will have a bigger audience within a matter of years. It’s already almost thrice as viewed as the Super Bowl, which is estimated to have a typical audience of around 160 million people. There’s still some way to go to reach the 3.2 billion viewing figure for the English Premier League in 2018/19, but given the rate of growth it wouldn’t be surprising to see eSports top the billion mark within a decade or so.
The rise of the global pandemic in 2020 has sadly led to substantial casualties, and the widespread cessation of other sports leagues to try and help inhibit the proliferation of the coronavirus. Naturally, eSports, like top online casinos, are less affected than traditional sports, and the sudden absence of soccer, NBA, F1, and more has driven significant fresh interest in the likes of CS:GO, League of Legends, and online slots.
In March 2020, unique paid activities in the League of Legends daily fantasy (DraftKings) rose by more than 1,000%, and entry fees rose by 700% week-on-week. There’s already a booming growth in eSports, and whilst some traditional sports fans will return to their old preferences once the crisis is over there’s no denying that millions of people are giving eSports a try and many of them will like what they see.
eSports Betting Options
Earlier it was discussed how much growth there’s been in China, and betting opportunities on Chinese eSports markets are readily available (in much the same way sports betting can happen on soccer leagues in overseas nations). There’s plenty of scope for eSports betting at bookies in Europe and Canada already.
Naturally, the traditional winning market (team X or Y to win) is available for eSport clashes, and handicap markets are also commonly available. It’s worth noting that secondary markets can vary according to the differing eSports. Whilst they typically involve one team against another, games such as League of Legends, DOTA, and CS:GO do differ quite a lot. DOTA, for example, might have markets available for winning map 1 and map 2, as well as correct score markets (best of 3), and total maps played. These markets are also often offered for CS:GO as well. In some eSports, such as Rainbow Six, draws can also be possible.
Another of the biggest attractions in eSports is League of Legends. In addition to the standard win market, particular kill results are possible. These markets can include NPCs, such as dragons, or teams to score impressive quadra or penta kills. First blood and most kills for individual maps may also be offered as markets, and there may be odd/even kill markets too.