Similar to rise of Daily Fantasy in the US and Canada, eSports betting - betting on any sort of competition featuring video games - has seen a massive spike in interest over the past few years. Prior to 2010, electronic sports events were really only known by those directly involved in the online gaming world or happen to know someone who was; the events were seemingly rarely bet on, at least not any more than other obscure competitions. Outside of a small niche following, eSports in general seemed to never catch the interest of those outside of the video game world.
But in the past few years, eSports and the gambling associated with the sport have seen unprecedented growth in terms of support, participation and investment; and major personalities and brands have not only noticed but begun investing in the budding industry. The world of online gambling has even taken notice as major operators and suppliers look for innovative ways to profit from the sport's dramatic rise.
It has taken quite some time for society to even begin to accept eSports as a sport, mostly due to the fact that it involved playing a video game and not the typical physical exertion featured in popular athletics. But well before society's acceptance of these video gamers as virtual 'athletes', real-life professional athletes were not only supporting eSports socially but financially as well. A wealth of former and current professional athletes saw the potential financial benefits of this budding industry as its rise came to be, evidenced by how many have or are beginning to invest in the eSports industry.
The face of former-athletes in eSports is retired professional basketball player and former NBA champion, Rick Fox. Fox might not have been the most well-known player in the NBA but has made a name for himself in the world of eSports after buying one of the most elite League of Legends (that's a video game) teams for $1 million - the team was renamed Echo Fox after the Fox acquisition. Fox admits his initial interest in eSports derived from trying to connect with his son but he has continued and even increased his interest once he saw how much potential the industry truly had. Talking with a TMZ reporter, Fox revealed he believes eSports will be on par with the NHL in the US in terms of popularity in just 2 years time.
Some might consider Fox's prediction optimistic but it isn't all that inconceivable considering eSports is already the 5th most popular sport in the US, right behind the NHL at #4. Other prominent athletes who must agree with Fox's assumption and are also now eSport industry investors include two players once considered the best in the respective game, Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq), one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, and Alex Rodriguez, highest-earning professional baseball player ever.
But the athlete investors aren't the only ones looking to cash in on this growing market. ESPN, the US' leader in sport media, aired its first live eSports event in 2015, an unprecedented move by the sports media giant. The event was aired on one of ESPN's many virtual channels, meaning it didn't reach everyone's cable boxes at home but does show promise that the "worldwide leader in sports" is airing eSports events.
Along with ESPN, a wealth of other big-name brands have joined the eSports party including the massive refreshment conglomerate, Pepsi. Earlier this month, one of Pepsi's many $1 billion grossing subsidiaries, Brisk, announced their sponsorship of another elite eSports team, the more well-known Optic Gaming, which is widely considered the top eSports team on the planet.
With the rise of any competition follows the rise of its gambling market, just as it has happened with eSports. But unlike most budding markets, eSports found itself be driven not just by operators offering the market but by the online gambling world embracing the new market with cutting edge innovation and unique features. William Hill Sports - long considered the leader in online bookmakers - has embraced the innovation of eSports betting in two separate and distinct ways.
The first of which was signing on with the expanding Betradar software company, the world-leader in eSports betting solutions. Following this lucrative partnership, William Hill Labs, WH's innovation division, named BetGame their winner of the heralded William Hill industry-pioneering accelerator challenge. This was huge for eSports betting as BetGame specializes in providing software for players enjoying video games amongst friends to place wagers on their own personal match ups. eSports betting isn't just for the big events anymore, its for your everyday FIFA match too!
If you'd like to join in on this budding market or simply love betting a market you've never tried, head over to William Hill Sports today and start betting eSports!