2023’s iGaming Changer: The Transition From Sportsbook to Esportsbook

For many operators, more used to delivering products focused on traditional sports, successfully pivoting their operations towards the fast-developing esports sector has been an ongoing challenge. 

Yet–with such impressive growth rates, and new revenue stream opportunities–they can’t afford to miss the journey of an iGaming lifetime: The transition from sportsbook to sportsbook.

Our very own Curtis Roach caught up with Bonny Leyser, Head of Sales, New Business at Berlin-based Shadow Esports, to get her perspective on this key transition between gaming verticals. Is it worth the trouble, we asked. And, most importantly, what steps can operators take to ensure sustained growth within the esports sector?

What would you say are the biggest differences between sportsbooks and esports in regard to engaging players?

“There are two main differences between sports and esports that betting operators need to be aware of to engage bettors. 

“First of all, esports is much more fast-paced than traditional sports. Important and betting- relevant points happen much more frequently in esports titles such as League of Legends or CS:GO than they do in football, for example. An engaging esports betting offering needs to be able to keep up with that pace, and provide bettors with an equally agile betting experience.

“Secondly, the esports audience itself differs greatly from the traditional sports bettor. Esports fans are quite young compared to the average traditional sports fan. Betting operators need to be aware of this and adjust the presentation of their services accordingly, from their visual presentation to their wording and the platforms used to reach this audience. 

“It is also important to keep in mind that, while we are speaking of the general esports audience, most esports fans do not actually follow all esports titles. For instance, fans of Dota 2 will rarely, if ever, watch League of Legends and, as such, will not be interested in betting on matches in LoL. This makes it even more important for betting operators to target the right audience for their services, and prepare very specific messages instead of simply trying to appeal to esports fans in general.”

How can operators make better use of content to engage esports fans specifically? What are the most effective tools they should be using?

“Esports can be difficult to grasp for people who are not already into the games.

“Furthermore, not all relevant information is visible in the broadcast. For example–in games like Dota 2 or League of Legends–the aggregated gold of each team is shown in the broadcast at all times. But the gold of each individual player is not. 

“For betting, this can be problematic as such information would be very relevant to a bettor so that they would be able judge the advantage a team actually has. 

“By offering advanced statistics, explanations and insights, betting operators can both help newer bettors understand what is happening in the game, while simultaneously allowing experienced fans to make better informed decisions.

“Our Shadow Esports Live Data Visualisations Widget allows users to do just that: See the results of past matches, get all the necessary live statistics that would otherwise not be accessible, and draw well-informed conclusions about the current state of the game and which team will come out on top.”

Esports betting is largely an in-game experience, putting increased pressure on live odds and content. What are the challenges associated with this for traditional sports book operators, who may be used to offering more of a pre-match experience?

“There are a number of challenges. The main ones would be that esports is very fast-paced and there are frequent changes to the in-game dynamics due to patches, or new meta strategies that teams discover. To achieve a reliable margin with limited risks, it’s crucial to
a) have specialised traders for each esports, and train them on new developments, and
b) build and permanently update the prediction models used to calculate odds.

“Furthermore, because of the objective-based nature of esports titles, matches can swing from a seemingly sure win to a loss within seconds. Bookmakers need to make quick decisions on when–and for how long–they want to suspend the markets. For example, in League of Legends, it could be wise for them to do so right before the Dragon, or Baron, is about to respawn, as a team fight that might swing the entire game is quite likely at that point. 

“However, doing so harms the user experience and uptime significantly. The challenge is to find a balance between user risk and user-experience.

“Additionally, the esports landscape is very dynamic. New esports tournaments or entirely new esports titles can pop up out of seemingly nowhere for those unfamiliar with esports. What this means for betting operators is that there is a risk to miss out on new game titles, new markets or have worse margins because they happened to miss out on crucial information about a team or player. 

“Lastly, in order to keep up with the dynamic nature of esports matches and bookmakers having to offer equally dynamic and engaging esports betting services, official data becomes king. Betting operators need to be faster than their audience, and the only way to do so is to gain the relevant information before the fans can see it on their screens. They need officially licensed server-based data if they want to be able to build and offer high-performing and engaging products.

“Because of these challenges, small- to medium-sized bookmakers may find themselves struggling to offer appropriate esports betting services, as they cannot afford multiple specialised trading teams that are experts in a single esports title, while also scouting the esports landscape for new opportunities. However, this does not mean offering esports betting services should be seen as impossible to them. 

The Bayes Esports Odds Feed is a marketplace which allows betting operators to choose and mix from the odds feeds of different suppliers that are all based on official data. Such platforms allow everyone in the betting industry to make the most out of their esports offering.”

Editor’s Note:

After speaking with Bonny it’s clear that there are some major differences that traditional sportsbook operators must be aware of. The key, she argues, lies within the way content is  delivered to the customer. 

Important factors to pay attention to are: Pace- of-play, Data Visualisation and, most importantly, Target Audience. 

As an industry we must be careful to NOT fall into the trap of thinking all esports are the same. LoL, most notably, is as different to CS:GO, as football is to tennis.

It’s encouraging to see amazing new market solutions from content providers like Shadow. Now operators can move forward in the esports sector, confident in the knowledge that they have access to the most relevant, data-driven content – perfect for engaging and winning over the younger, tribal esports communities.

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