In the past, professional bookmakers in the United States didn’t think much about esports. Most considered it to be on par with horse racing and even though bookies offered it, but it wasn’t one of the more essential options. But, since mid-2020, though, the bookie viewpoint regarding esports has shifted significantly. Once a novelty, pay per head agents, bookies who use sportsbook software, have signed on more and more esports betting players. The increase in action can be traced and part of the reason to the fact that most online sportsbooks offer betting on Counter-strike (CS:GO), League of Legends (LoL), and Dota 2 matches.
CS:GO, League of Legends, and Dota 2 are the three most organized esports globally. Dota 2 is so popular that later this month, on March 25, Netflix will release an anime show starring Valve Dota, one of the game’s main characters. Twitch, the online streaming service, also broadcasts the most important and most essential esports matches. What’s interesting is that all three are older games. Dota 2 came out in 2013. League of Legends calls 2009 its birth year, and Counter-Strike began on Microsoft Windows in 1999.
Similar to what happens with the NFL, NBA, and MLB, esports enthusiasts latch onto specific teams and players. The two most popular games, Counter-strike and League of Legends, are attractive to different regions worldwide. The top four ranked CS:GO teams are from Russia and European nations. The best League of Legends teams call South Korea and China their homes.
Riot Games, which developed League of Legends, runs all regional tournaments and the LoL World Championships. Valve, Counter-Strike’s creator, runs major Counter-strike tournaments throughout the world. Valve also created Dota 2. The main Dota 2 event is The International. Valve shelved The International in 2020 due to the coronavirus. Although Valve has not released the dates for The International in 2021, most believe it will happen in Stockholm, Sweden, sometime in August.
When asked about esports, PayPerHead product manager Nate Johnson said, “Any time you’ve got a tournament with a $34 to $40 million prize pool, like The International, our agents will see action on those matches.” Johnson also added that players have helped esports popularity rise. Astralis Counter-Strike player Dev1ce, Nicholas Reedtz is his real name, has earned over $1.29 million. “Every CS:GO fan on the planet knows who Dev1ce is,” Johnson said, “which is why whenever Astralis plays, you can be sure Twitch is streaming it.”
Asked specifically about esports in the US, Johnson said, “U.S. bettors, to a large degree, have yet to catch on, which is why many of our agents haven’t seen a rise in esports betting action.” Johnson said that could soon change. “The Overwatch League is based in the United States and Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, has a stake in Boston Uprising. Other major sports league figures are getting involved. As more football, baseball, and basketball figures get involved, esports should gain in popularity here in the states.”
“The 2021 Overwatch League starts play on April 16. So our agents could see a rise in esports action around that time,” Johnson added. “But agents mustn’t wait until April 16. Almost every week, there are multiple CS:GO, LoL, and Dota 2 tournaments. Now’s the time for agents to start telling their players about esports betting with all the exciting options now available.”