Esports betting has seen a titanic rise following the, albeit temporary, absence of traditional sports. With almost no sports available to wager on, the likes of FIFA, NBA 2K, and more classic esports titles such as League of Legends have seen an influx of betting activity from otherwise-bored punters.
To dig into this trend, how long it may last, and the activities of those supplying operators with much-needed esports markets, Esports Insider spoke with Michael Keown and Scott Burton of Askott Entertainment.
Esports Insider: How has esports betting evolved since you entered the industry?
Michael Keown: Within the iGaming industry, esports has gone from a little-understood niche to a product valued and promoted by major traditional sportsbooks. Recent world events have further shone a spotlight on esports, and it has cemented its place in the minds of not just the betting public, but the public in general.
With this more established footing, we have seen an increase in betting sponsorship within esports, a heightened presence on traditional sportsbook front ends, and huge growth in product offer. Only a few years ago, esports betting was restricted to League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, and StarCraft II, but now we offer over 20 esports titles to bet on. Market offer within these titles has grown several times over, with data readily available, more so than in traditional sports.
Esports and data go hand in hand, so due to better data feeds, and more confidence in esports betting models, the in-play market has boomed, as operators can offer much wider match coverage and less in-play downtime, giving esports players the full betting experience that has been enjoyed by traditional sports punters for years. This, in turn, has driven cross-sell from traditional sports to esports, so growth is being driven both by increased acquisition to the vertical, and a richer product to drive turnover per player.
ESI: You started off with EsportsPools, what was the key driver behind the shift towards Askott Entertainment and becoming a supplier?
Scott Burton: We had always envisioned being a supplier and building out our suite of products to do so. Esportspools.com was really us testing the market in 2014 to see if esports fans would engage with something similar to betting. Esportspools.com was initially a daily fantasy site for esports. The response we saw with that site was enough to push us to start developing betting products specifically for esports.
We were early in the space so we launched a series of our own sites to test the platform and be our own customers. We expected the market to follow and it has.
ESI: What are the key differences of your product in comparison to others out there in the market?
MK: As one of the earliest in the esports betting space, we took a 360 view from the outset. As well as a premium fixed-odds esports product, powered by our partners at Pinnacle, we have a player v player betting platform that allows our customers to bet live on the performance of their favourite streamers, an esports fantasy product covering the major esports titles, and we have recently released Askott games, a range of unique esports themed casino-style games. So we have the full package for esports bettors, with content that players can only find at Askott.
ESI: We recently saw the announcement of Askott Games, can you tell us more about that?
SB: Askott Games is a division of the company that is building proprietary esports and video game themed RNG casino-style games. The interest in the first two games has been great. Our first game, LOOTHUNTER, will be released onto our four live partner sites in the coming weeks. We are also close to announcing the first two casino game aggregators that will be adding them.
ESI: You’ve built up a number of working relationships with key players in the space. How important are these partnerships to your offering?
SB: These relationships are important in a few ways. Firstly, it has allowed us to create a robust and unique esports iGaming platform that is hard to duplicate. Secondly, it has opened up a number of additional partnerships that have allowed us to grow and scale quicker than we would have without them.
Finally, being able to tie the Askott brand to our industry-leading partners gives us great credibility in the marketplace.
ESI: How do you see esports betting progressing from this point onwards?
MK: There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but one thing that has come to the fore is the adaptability of esports. As an industry, we were quick to adapt and move tournaments online, and the surge in viewing figures on Twitch and other major streaming platforms is being matched by a similar surge in esports betting turnover.
Esports betting was always going to increase in profile and popularity, closing the gap to traditional sports, but whatever timeline would have been predicted before has just been ripped up. There is a real hunger for content, and we see the future as being a genuine 24/7/365 esports betting product, and I believe we are getting close to that point now.
ESI: Is there a chance for games such as CS:GO and League of Legends to be leading betting markets in the future or are sports simulation titles such as NBA 2K more likely to be the leading titles?
MK: In the short term, sports titles will have a moment, and be an entry point for some traditional sports punters to cross over to esports betting while there is a lack of their usual content, but titles like CS:GO and League of Legends offer something completely different to basketball, football, soccer, or anything else. The younger generations have grown up as gamers, and connect with computer games in a way that previous generations couldn’t.
Time will tell, but I would put my money on games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and CS:GO, but whether these titles endure, or are replaced at the top by new games in the future is an unknown. The one thing to be certain of is that esports betting will take its opportunity in the spotlight, and continue to go from strength to strength.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Askott Entertainment