The Story Behind Esports Betting: A Massive Supporting Industry

by in General | May, 28th 2020

People love gambling! Whether we’re talking about typical brick and mortar casinos, online betting platforms, or good old sports betting – the demand is high because… well, quite frankly, people love gambling!

People’s love for betting is further cemented by the sheer number of stuff they can place wagers on. We’re not just talking about conventional sports anymore, like football, soccer, baseball, etc. Nowadays, bookmakers are expanding their markets to even the most absurd of things, like betting on the Oscars, Superbowl halftime show, presidential elections, Trump’s impeachment, esports, and so on.

Esports – yep, online bookmakers have started offering esports betting a long time ago. Nowadays, it not a question of whether or not a bookie has esports markets, but just how much esports markets are there. There’s a huge demand for esports, with several games topping the charts.

But, before we dig deeper into esports betting, we feel there’s a need for a disclaimer here.

As some of you already know, the Internet is packed with websites featuring esports betting content. Unfortunately, most of such websites are only trying to pump up their affiliates program numbers in search of raw profit. They don’t care about esports nor their visitors. The only thing they care about is the conversion rate and profit. Esports Talk is not just another esports betting affiliate. The reason why we haven’t addressed esports gambling in proper depth thus far is purely because we didn’t want people to think we have hidden intentions. That said, today’s topic is esports betting in general, but not in the typical “gambling affiliate fashion.” There won’t be a single affiliate link here, and we’ve done our best to cut down with gambling sites’ names too. So, if you’re interested in the rapidly growing esports betting industry, keep on reading!

Esports Betting 101

Let’s take things one step at a time and try to understand the basics behind esports betting. In other words, let’s start with a concise definition:

Esports represent sophisticated ecosystems of organized competitions in video games. Esports betting, on the other hand, represents betting on the outcomes of esports matches, typically provided by various online betting platforms.

Who is betting on esports? This “hobby” doesn’t seem like it attracts massive numbers. After all, esports still aren’t that popular on their own, let alone one of their supporting niches.

Unfortunately, there are no official starts regarding the number of people who partake in CS:GO betting activities. However, we do know the amount of money wagered on esports matches in 2019, and it’s roughly $8 billion. Furthermore, growth estimates project upwards of $16 billion in just a few years, which just goes to show you the popularity and scale of esports betting.

Age-wise, typically, we’re talking about young adults aged 18 to 25, although we’re seeing more and more older folks take up esports betting, too. A few years ago, underage esports betting was a serious problem, but it was cut down with surgical precision. More on that later. For now, let’s check out the most popular esports betting titles out there!

Most Popular Games People Are Betting On

In addition to CS:GO, which is the most popular first-person shooter (FPS from now on) esports title to bet on, there are two additional, highly popular games enjoying massive betting demand. Both of them belong to the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA from now on) genre that hit the esports jackpot back when the industry started taking its first baby steps forward.

Dota 2

Dota 2 is CS:GO’s sister game. Both are insanely popular esports titles, both are made by Valve, and both are available on Steam as F2P (free to play) titles. The “only difference” is the gameplay. In terms of gameplay, these two games can’t even be compared.

As mentioned above, Dota 2 is a MOBA game with tons of unique heroes, neutral creatures, monsters, and items. In essence, it’s very similar to League of Legends (which blatantly copied the original Dota), but it’s nothing surprising considering the fact they’re both MOBA titles.

As far as Dota 2 betting goes, it became popular with Dota Lounge, a popular betting and trading platform that took advantage of Dota’s player base and Valve’s lenient API and ToS enforcement. Nowadays, Dota 2 is the most lucrative esports title, although with alarming viewership stats. Still, its betting segment is vast and rich, making viewership stagnation merely a hiccup along the way.

League of Legends

Contrary to popular belief, Riot Games’ League of Legends was the game that brought esports to the mainstream. It revolutionized the way games were broadcasted and reveled to the unknowing eyes, bringing forth an innovative, well-organized approach with a fair dose of professionalism. That dose of professionalism was enough to seduce investors who started pumping in money into the industry, helping it through its earliest stages. Why is this important? Well, some of those investors are responsible for introducing esports to betting.

Nowadays, LoL is the most popular esports out there, with a massive, loyal fanbase and plenty of gambling enthusiasts. It features organized and well-structured, franchised leagues, possesses much-needed long-term stability, and is entertaining in terms of both betting and spectating. The latter is the vital part of LoL that brought forth everything else.


Next up, we have CS:GO. It’s the world’s most popular first-person shooter (sorry Fortnite and PUBG, your fame were too short) that’s managing to stand the test of time and repent all wannabe contenders. As mentioned above, it’s made by Valve and has made a switch to a free-to-play model back in late 2018, making its player count surge marvelously.

Fast-forward to 2020, CS:GO still has awesome player count, and its esports viewership isn’t sinking either. Most importantly, CS:GO betting keeps on rising with more and more top-tier events coming in. It’s one of the most stable esports titles out there, now getting even more long-term stability with new (somewhat) franchised leagues. They will, undoubtedly, further boost the already highly popular CS:GO betting niche.

New Contenders

There’s a handful of new contenders aiming to take down the aforementioned trio. betting on Overwatch, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege is increasingly more popular. Overwatch and Call of Duty both have franchised leagues now, which means greater sustainability and long-term stability, both of which are important for bookies’ interest and community involvement. Rainbow Six Siege is coming up the ranks too, showing off great numbers while pushing its fourth competitive year.

Games that came onto the scene during the battle royale craze, such as Apex Legends, Fortnite, and PUBG, are losing popularity. While they still enjoy somewhat reasonable player counts, it’s nothing to write home about. They were never viable for betting purposes since their gameplay was way too unpredictable. But still, it’s surprising to them fall so low.

History of Esports Betting

As depicted above, esports betting is not a trend but a massive industry that’s here to stay. And while we can’t pinpoint the exact date when the first esports bet was made, we can tell you a great deal about the industry’s history.

2014 was the year when esports finally got the spotlight it craved for. Riot Games was having a blast with several widely successful LoL World Championships, and CS:GO was testing the esports waters too. Dota 2 and The Internationals were enjoying plenty of success too… and where there’s success and money to be made, you can rest assured there will be betting too.

The esports betting scene took off shortly after the initial esports boom. At the very start, only a handful of specialized esports betting sites offered wagers on CS:GO, Dota 2 and LoL matches. The big names such as BetWay, Pinnacle, and Bet365 were mostly hesitant, allowing illegal/shady platforms to pursue their skin betting businesses.

Bookmakers that offered legit esports wagers usually categorized them with virtual sports, which is a completely different thing. That’s probably the biggest teething issue that plagued esports betting at first. That, alongside an obvious lack of betting options and market coverage. As mentioned earlier, CS:GO, Dota 2 and LoL (StarCraft II is worth mentioning too) are the only markets available back then.

Not only was there a shortage of esports markets, but a shortage of esports events to bet on, too. Esports bookmakers featured only the biggest, most prominent events, which greatly limited the amount of traffic they could get.

Fast forward to 2020, all major names in the online gambling sphere have separate esports betting categories and possess numerous markets as well as an abundance of events to choose from. We’re not just talking about match-winner bets here but a variety of specials and long-terms too. It’s a diverse market, one that’s still experiencing massive growth and shows no signs of stopping!

Skin Betting Sites Played a Key Role

On the other end of the spectrum, the illegal/shady end, skin betting was outright flourishing before the big, legit names came knocking on the door. 2014, 2015, and the first half of 2016 were the golden years of skin betting, a shady business practice that operated in the gray areas of online gambling regulations.

The biggest problem with online skin betting in games such as CS:GO and Dota 2 was the fact there were no age-gates implemented on the key platforms, meaning children of all ages could bet their in-game skins. This paved the way for underage gambling, which put the skin betting niche under scrutiny. Soon enough, Valve (the company behind Dota 2 and CS:GO) decided to act, sending out a large number of cease and desist letters to combat the growing skin betting scene.

Nowadays, there are still a few skin betting sites alive and well. Even though they’re still operating in gray areas, they do a much better job in terms of preventing underaged gambling and protecting their users’ personal information. Still, we can’t recommend such platforms over 100% legit esports gambling operators.

Considering all this, skin betting played an important role in the creation of the esports betting industry. Even though we’re talking about a shady business here, its success paved the way for big-name bookmakers to test out esports markets on their own.

Most Popular Esports Bets

Esports betting has evolved from simple match-winner bets to a vast market packing specials, long-terms, totals, and even live betting. It’s an ever-growing niche that’s still in massive demand. However, esports gambling enthusiasts have acquired a prolific taste in bets, making bookies’ lives that much harder.

Esports gambling enthusiasts aren’t in it for the money. They want to test their knowledge and are looking for complex specials they can use to compete with their peers and prove their superiority. Here are the best they enjoy the most.

LoL/Dota 2 Specials

Since Riot Games’ League of Legends and Valve’s Dota 2 are both MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games, their gameplay is quite similar. There are five players on each team, three lanes, minions, neutral creeps, and a bunch of global objectives and structures to destroy. The goal in both games is identical – destroy the enemies’ base before they destroy yours. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

As far as the LoL/Dota 2 special bets go, here’s the most popular bunch:

Team to draw first blood: This is by far the most popular bet in LoL and Dota 2. It’s pretty simple too. You’re betting on the team that you believe will get the first kills. The first kill is very important, yields bonus gold, and can push the game one way or the other, so correctly guessing first blood specials can be very tough.

Team to destroy first inhibitor/barracks/tower: Towers are the first line of defense in LoL and Dota 2. Depending on their champion/hero lineups, some teams will force early game pushes while others will try to keep the laning phase going for as long as possible. For this bet, all you have to do is guess which team will take down the first tower or inhibitor/barracks, depending on which game you’re betting on.

Match duration over/under: Typically, matches last for roughly 30-40 minutes across both games. However, factors such as laning tactics, favored champions, global objective pursuits, and teamfight organization greatly affect it. As for the actual bet, the bookie will give you a specific time and you have to guess whether the match duration will be longer or shorter.

Team kill count over/under: Just like the previous bet – the bookie gives a specific number, and you’re supposed to guess whether the team in question will have more or fewer kills than the given number. Team kill counts depend on numerous factors, champion/hero combinations, late-game potential, global objective buffs and so on, so make sure you take everything into account before making your choice.

CS:GO Specials

CS:GO specials are plentiful too. There’s a wide variety of options to choose from, especially for the biggest events such as ESL Pro League Finals and CS:GO Major Championships. Other, smaller events are well-represented too, but might not always possess the greatest variety. As far as popularity goes, here are the biggest options:

Team to win both pistol rounds: Pistol rounds in CS:GO are just as important as first blood in Dota 2 and LoL. They boost the economy of the team that wins them, usually resulting in one or two additional rounds to their tally. The premise of this bet is simple – as its name suggests, you’re betting on the team you believe will win both pistol rounds.

Player vs. player kill counts: This is a very popular CS:GO special, but it’s only available during the biggest events. It pins two players (typically the best fraggers from each team) and you have to choose which of them will have more kills in the given match.

Player with the most kills/highest ADR: If player vs. player kill counts is too much for you, you can always go with the good old player kill count or highest ADR. The bookies give you a list of names, and you’re supposed to pick the one that will have the most kills or the highest average damage per round, depending on which bet you opt for.

Total rounds over/under: Last but not least – total rounds! Since CS:GO can have a maximum of 30 rounds, rounds over/under are the most popular totals bet. Bookies give you an average number, i.e., 26.5, and you’re supposed to guess whether the final round count will be higher or lower than that. It sounds fairly simple but can be very difficult to nail down consistently.

The biggest esports betting sites offer specials for other esports titles too, but they’re not nearly as abundant and popular as the one explained above.

Bet Responsibly

In the end, there’s just one thing I’d like to mention.

If you’re thinking of trying out esports betting, make sure you set some boundaries right off the bat. Gambling can lead to a serious addiction, remember that! It’s okay to get a few wagers in now and then, but spending too much money and chasing losses can quickly get the better of you.

If you or someone you know is having gambling problems, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help.


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