Esports – an integral part of the product mix

Ahead of her panel appearance at Betting on Sports, Rohini Sardana – Head of Product Propositions at SIS, explains why esports is here to stay and how operators can capitalise on the fast-growing vertical.

Major esports tournaments such as the Fifa eWorld Cup and Fortnite World Cup have once again attracted huge crowds and the attention of mainstream media, further demonstrating that this popular form of entertainment has significant traction worldwide.

The challenge for the betting industry is how it can capitalise on this fast-growing vertical. While some operators have embraced esports and have actively looked to drive awareness of the product amongst their customer base, it’s still an area that has significant growth potential.

For operators that have contemplated making the move into this sector, perceptions around the integrity of the competitions, as well as the actual interest of such tournaments to bettors are sometimes sticking points.

However, given the huge potential of betting on esports, which is estimated to be worth around $13 billion by 2020 (according to research by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming), it is certainly worth considering how best to optimise the esports offer to bettors in order to realise its potential.

Opportunity for easy to understand betting content

We carried out significant market research to understand the current esports betting market offer, and our key finding was that current offers are generally seen by traditional sports bettors as too complex and difficult to understand.

It is evident that the current esports betting offer is not optimised for sports bettors, as the game formats are not aligned with events that bettors presently bet on. This informed the development of our new esports product – SIS Competitive Gaming, which was created with sports bettors in mind, and has been built for sportsbooks and casinos which want to accommodate esports.

The ‘head-to-head’ games are run across familiar sports titles such as ice hockey and basketball, with markets that are familiar and intelligible to sports bettors, be they seasoned or novice.

Prices on events such as the next team to score, total goals and match outcomes will bear a resemblance to those currently offered on existing sports, which should offer a sense of familiarity and understanding for bettors and drive engagement.

Similarities with virtual sports

During my time working within the betting industry, I’ve witnessed the evolution of virtual sports into an established betting product, overcoming initial operator concerns.

Initially dubbed as “cartoon racing”, many operators were concerned whether video animated sports event would really appeal to bettors. However, with nearly all the major sportsbooks now featuring virtual sports, it’s safe to say that this vertical has proven itself as a credible part of the sportsbook offer.

Similarly, current perceptions of esports by some operators, mirror those initial concerns around virtual sports. Esports is an emerging product that has the potential to provide significant betting opportunities in-between live sporting events, in the same way that virtuals have done so in previous years.

Ironing out the issues with esports

Integrity of esports tournaments is a key area of concern amongst operators and punters. Bettors want to engage with a product that is fair and transparent, which means there must be processes in place to ensure all events and gamers follow the strict participation requirements set out by the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC). There’s also been concerns regarding the reliability of prices, as very few traders currently exist that have in-depth knowledge of esports to produce accurate prices for the events.

SIS Competitive Gaming, the industry’s first esports product optimised for sportsbooks, has

a schedule of 15,000 live events a year which features a dedicated integrity referee, following best practices by ESIC for every tournament. We also have a team of specialist traders that are experts in the games that we are offering, supported by a proprietary trading application and industry leading algorithms to deliver prices to optimise operators’ margins.

These quick-fire, short-form betting opportunities are designed to increase customer engagement and provide incremental betting revenues for operators. SIS Competitive Gaming is delivered as an end-to-end solution, with live streamed pictures, commentary, on-screen graphics with betting triggers, data plus an extensive range of markets and prices.

It’s evident that esports is a vertical which cannot be ignored, as it presents a significant opportunity for operators to differentiate themselves, and to provide incremental, frequent betting opportunities for their customers.