The marriage of esports and iGaming could become “one of the main drivers of innovation in sportsbooks,” according to Esports Technologies’ CMO Mark Thorne.
Speaking during a panel at last week’s iGaming Next conference in Valletta, Malta, titled ‘Esports and Sports Betting: A marriage made or a marriage hindered,’ Mr Thorne delved into some of the advantages the proliferation of esports gambling for the wider iGaming industry.
He reflected that innovation in sportbooks seems to have “stagnated” in previous years, and the adaptations that a successful entry into esports betting forces operators to make will drive them to improve their offering.
Aside from these benefits, he also finds that esports is and could be looked at as an acquisition vehicle for traditional sportsbooks, “though how they can go about doing this is a subject for a whole different panel.”
“Acquisition costs for an esports customer in inevitably less than a casino customer,” Mr Thorne said, so when a traditional sportsbook acquires them, it seems likely that there will be an attempt to cross over the players to casino.
Mr Thorne and his co-panelists, Daniel Pereaux, Fragbite CEO and Flavien Guillocheau, PandaScore CEO also discussed esports betting more broadly.
They reflected on the development of the vertical during the pandemic, as lots of sportsbooks began looking at it as an ‘evergreen’ filler product, “helping to flatten out the seasonality curve” of traditional sports calendars.
However, the question, as raised by host, Oskar Fröberg, Abios CEO and founder, is whether the new products will persist as “fillers,” as the pandemic rescinds and live sporting events continue.
For Mr Thorne, this depends on the nature of the individual operators.
“If you’re a mainstream retail and online operator, then esports is a filler product for sure, but if you’re looking to target esports betting seriously, then it needs to be seen as its own vertical, and each individual game should be seen as its own sport,” he explained
Adding to this point, Mr Guillocheau observed that while during the pandemic, esports was a natural filler, attracting many of those who would otherwise have been betting on live sports, certain types of esports events seem to have faded (like League of Legends), while others have persisted in their popularity (such as FIFA).
“Sports simulations are the ones that immediately come to mind when one thinks of esports as a filler,” he said.
Discussing how existing operators can attract esports fans, the panelists suggested that the key would be to invest in the sports
“Be seen as an enabler,” said Mr Pereaux, “and the community will love you.”
He also advised that operators cannot just “copy and paste” their sports book offering into esports betting: “You need to see your target group as a sub-culture, understand the audience, and what gets them excited,” he said.
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