ESI Gambling Report: Who’s doing what in 2018?

With news rather slow as the esports industry gets back into the swing of things it’s time once again to put our good friends, the bookmakers, under the microscope and gauge who’s starting 2018 with a bang. We’re also having a look at who is set to do well in the new year and, as per usual, who is lagging behind. 

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Start as you mean to go on

Bet365

Without doubt, Bet365 continues to lead the way as we head into the new year. The bookmaker simply has the widest array of markets on the broadest range of tournaments.

The Stoke based operator has odds on each of the League of Legends regions as well as the Demacia Cup, with specials for the upcoming Dota 2 Captain’s Draft tournament as well as outright and match betting. There’s also odds on the AfreecaTV PUBG League, Overwatch League, Starcraft II and some Rocket League and Heroes of the Storm for good measure. 

The team over at 365 continue to price tournaments that others don’t touch –  and the specials on Dota are continued example of the depth available within esports. It’ll be interesting to see if in 2018 other operators cotton on and expand their respective offerings. 

Betway

The Ninjas in Pyjamas sponsor is not in shabby form as we approach what could be the biggest year yet for esports betting. Although they’re not quite on the level of 365 with a few titles missing and without specials, there’s still a broad range of offers available for the esports punter.

Credit where credit’s due, Betway most definitely lead the way in promotional offers for their esports fans. There’s often enhanced multiples, money back offers should your team fail to win and plenty more. Plus the social media and content around Betway is second to none, as always. It’s great to have a regulated, well respected bookmaker operating in the space and investing as much as the Betway team in event and team sponsorship. Although there’s always somewhat of a stigma around gambling in an industry where there are likely to be a lot of minors, Betway did a fantastic job in 2017 of pleasing the esports audience and there’s no reason that it won’t continue in the coming year. 

Edging ever closer

Unikrn

Unikrn is a fairly odd bookmaker when you take what it is on the surface. Rahul Sood, the CEO, is a man with a fantastic vision and  it’s all set to come together under the Unikrn umbrella. There’s plans for dominance of the esports space with the crypto token UnikoinGold. Token betting should be allowed later this quarter and the company plans to obtain more gambling licenses across the world. Asian expansion and growth is also evidently a priority and opportunity so it’ll certainly be interesting to see the progress the company makes this year.

The team continuously suggest there’s “big announcements” and “great developments” to be revealed this year and the company’s progress will likely depend on the crypto token and the uptake of the aforementioned new features. The website remains aesthetically pleasing and although it’s not quite up there with the 365’s – there’s enough to keep most esports fans happy. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Mr Sood & co this year – with a full editorial team, Berlin office and several other investments this could be a big year for the esports dedicated operator. 

GG.Bet

Although I am personally not the biggest fan of the GG.Bet layout, there’s still a whole lot of selection for punters. There’s now integration of live streams although it can be a little untidy. As far as I can remember, when the bookmaker launched it had very little by way of anything outside esports. Now it features traditional casino games and slots courtesy of some of the industry’s biggest suppliers such as Microgaming, Play’N’Go, Betsoft, Evoplay and Yggdrasil. There seems to be consistent activity there, too, with the “Current Winners” tab consistently refreshing with new winners. There’s even an instant game called “Courier Sweeper” which adds an esports twang to a casino title. 

Whereas Betway has positioned itself content wise as more of a Counter-Strike bookmaker – with Rob, their head of social media knowing a whole lot about the title, GG.Bet has taken a different approach. On the news tab there’s pretty rarely a story about anything other than Dota 2, which may be down to the popularity of the site in the CIS region. If I were a betting man, I would say that GG.Bet takes a whole more on Dota than Counter-Strike.

It’ll be interesting to see the GG.Bet strategy this year. Whilst 2017 was a busy year for the company, appearing out of seemingly nowhere and becoming sponsors of several teams it’ll be interesting to see way the company goes about its business this year. 

Pinnacle

Over at Pinnacle there’s little doubt that the bookmaker still prides itself on what it offers, and its heritage in the esports space. The Curacao licensed operator was arguably one of the first regulated bookmakers to offer esports odds and continues to rack up  number of wagers. 

Although lack of markets is a constant gripe with the Pinnacle folk, that’s the way the business operates. The company prides itself on the best margins and lack of account limits for winners which is the unique selling point over many other bookmakers. When we’ve compared the odds previously, it’s often the case that Pinnacle slightly edge out other operators when it comes to odds on the favourite in an esports match up but fall short on the outsider. 

There’s still a range of titles to bet on, but nowhere near the amount of markets often seen on other sites. With the company’s revitalised esports hub this year – we’re looking forward to seeing the approach from Pinnacle. It’s evident that the company is not the abundantly clear market leader that it once arguably was in esports anymore so we’ll have to see if or how the approach has changed. We won’t be seeing any huge sponsorship details out of Pinnacle anytime soon, but if the esports hub produces nuanced, educational betting content similar to that of their main site then it could continue to find its place in the heart of many esports bettors. 

Who knows if they’ll have a dabble? 

Some of the biggest names, at least in the UK’s gambling world continue to shun esports or not really consider it at this time. There’s still debate around dedicated esports bookmakers, separate portal or just integrated book and to an outsider looking on – it’s impossible to tell whose approach is working best.

We would just like to reserve this section for a special mention for Coral who continue to offer nothing. Ladbrokes once upon a time had esports odds, but following the merger with Coral no longer has any such odds. Maybe it’s just the Coral effect.

An additional shout out goes to Betfred who actually has an esports section in the sportsbook. When you click it though, nothing happens. 

Finally, big kudos to PaddyPower. The operator does actually offer some odds but out of nowhere has plucked the classic “e-Sports” spelling. I mean, there’s a lot of guilty culprits here with eSports. Some even with E-Sports. But e-Sports? Come on now, let’s not be having that.