The sports betting industry across the world has been hit hard by the current Coronavirus pandemic. The resulting sports hiatus has crippled sportsbooks as they have very few current sporting events to offer customers. It has reached such critical levels that the state of Nevada has decided to allow sportsbooks in the state to accept offers eSports events.
Nevada to Allow Temporary eSports Betting
The sports world started to crumble back on the night of March 11th when the first professional athlete in the United States, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, major sports leagues across the United States, and the world, began to suspend or cancel their seasons and events. After a couple of weeks, nearly all sporting events across the globe were on hiatus. Nevada realized that their sportsbooks were going to be financially devastated by the lack of betting options.
As a result, Nevada approved sportsbooks to take eSports wagers on a video game titled Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). There is an entire eSports league dedicated to CS:GO and like most other sporting events, CS:GO has an entire season. Nevada allowed for sportsbooks to take bets on contests throughout the entire season. This wasn’t the first time that eSports betting was allowed in the country (New Jersey allowed temporary betting on the 2019 League of Legends World Championship final). However, it is the first time an entire eSports league has been approved for betting.
Nevada went a step further this past week when they approved betting on two more virtual sporting leagues. Nevada approved betting for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and the Dota 2 ESL One Los Angeles events.
Nevada and New Jersey both require regulators to approve and eSports betting before sportsbooks can legally offer it to customers. New Jersey is currently looking at legislation to legalize eSports betting as a whole.
Could Other States Follow in Nevada’s Footsteps?
Nevada has long been the standard of sports betting in the United States. Since the PASPA ruling back in May of 2018, when states were free to legalize sports betting in their own jurisdiction, sportsbooks have fed off of Nevada and learned from their practices. Now that Nevada is the first state to move to the eSports world in a time where live sports are virtually non-existent, we can expect more states with legal sports betting to follow suit.
There are currently 21 states with legal sports betting. Of those 21 states, 17 currently have some form of legal sports betting launched. States are certainly going to be missing that tax revenue from sports betting as the current sports betting options are severely limited. Not to mention any other loss of revenue from the current Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, we can expect more states to allow for betting on eSports events, at least until live sports return.
Are eSports Popular Enough For Sportsbooks to Take Bets on?
If you are wondering whether or not it is even worth the time and effort for sportsbooks to consider taking bets on eSports, it is. The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series event from the virtual Texas Motor Speedway, that took place on Sunday, March 29th, drew in more than 1.3 million viewers. The first event of the Invitational Series, which was held on March 22nd, attracted 903,000 viewers.
It is clear that sports fans are tuning in to virtual sporting events. As the current sports hiatus drags on, these virtual sporting events will continue to attract more and more people. Sportsbooks will be looking to take advantage of the fad while they can. It will be a missed opportunity for any state that does not at least temporarily allow for eSports betting.
Live sports realistically appear months away from resuming. That many months with little to no revenue for sportsbooks is money that states won’t want to miss out on. As for the eSports community, this is an excellent opportunity for them to reach a wider range of people and attract a new audience. The eSports community will have a great opportunity to expand its brand as it looks to get on the sports betting map.