The rise of esports as a betting market in recent years has been undeniable, but some misconceptions remain as to how the product should be distributed, consumed and operated.
Speaking to SBC News, Oliver Niner, Head of Sales at PandaScore, highlighted the importance for operators of leveraging their own esportsbook service to generate odds on the sector, whilst highlighting what the traditional betting space can learn from esports.
With regards to consumption and distribution of esports to a wider audience, Niner observed that there has been a misplaced narrative from some commentators who suggest that esports should adopt traditional broadcast models.
This view is misguided, he argued, and in fact the argument could be framed from the opposite angle – instead of esports learning from the traditional systems, established betting operators and media rights holders could instead learn from esports.
“We’re so used to consuming media as part of our lives, and we need to consider that it is changing and is no longer the way it once was,” Niner explained.
“Broadcasters like Sky and BT as well as betting operators should benefit from learning about how people consume esports via platforms such as Twitch or YouTube, as streaming is becoming dominant.
“Operators will need to learn to market in that way – esports can power that shift. This is something PandaScore are really keen to get involved in, to move forward with an evolved form of marketing and fan engagement.”
“We’re very open about how we generate our pricing and what measures we have in place in order to optimise performance and spot any issues before happen. Esports has a bad rep, mainly because it’s challenging the established methodology.”
Niner asserted that esports is no worse than other sports with regards to integrity issues, and many concerns which arise around this could be seen as driven by the maturity of the market, and the fact that there often less obstacles to predicting tournament outcomes than in some other cases.
“When you compare esports to tennis or lower-league football, it has the same mechanisms for collusion that any other sport does – I don’t think it is any worse or any better.
“We have incredibly robust processes, we’re very hot on understanding any internal errors and we alert our customers if we see anything suspicious.
“This is why you want your own esportsbook and a specialist esports provider. Someone who is providing you with prices across the board are not monitoring or understanding the nuances of the esports market, whilst our trading team and technology are there to safeguard.”
An additional perception of esports that needs to be overcome, Niner continued, is that it has a predominantly young viewership, raising some concerns regarding safer gambling and social responsibility.
This too, he argued, is not entirely accurate, especially when considering that popular titles such as Counter Strike have been on the market since the 2000s.
“We’re a technology company, and so we provide technological development and services to approach this,” Niiner explained, discussing PandaScore’s approach to age verification and responsibility.
“Using our API we log the age of our participants, so if for example in the UK or Spain there is an age threshold for betting on competitors, our operators can see that and not offer those matches. We want to make sure that our customers can offer esports betting markets in a way that they are morally comfortable with and have integrity.”
Although maintaining a worldwide following, esports – like most sectors of the global sporting scene – has its core territories, particularly in Eastern Europe, the wider CIS region and in Asia, but its popularity is growing.
Niner in particular identified the UK as an emerging market for esports betting, whilst the scene in Sweden is also market. He continued: “The UK is very interesting, and we’re seeing a lot of attention in Italy, whilst Greece has just regulated esports betting at the tail end.
“The scene is evolving in Central and Southern Europe. In LatAtm, we’re all waiting to see what will happen in Brazil. The first mover there will do very well, and there’s a similar situation in Mexico where there is a lot of potential.
“And of course we can’t ignore the US, but that will all come down to regulation and which operators are focusing on what products in certain states. Australia is also somewhere we have been paying attention to, we have a deal with Ladbrokes Australia which has been going well. There are plenty of operators with a mature betting culture in this territory so there’s something to build on.”
For PandaScore in particular, Russia and the wider CIS region has proven to be particuarly successful. The company has secured agreements with some major Tier 1 operators in this region as well as in the UK and Malta, whilst also inking a deal with Bitcoin casino FotuneJack last year.
Commenting on the rise of blockchain and cryptocurrency in gaming and how this can interact with esports, Niner noted that the development of the metaverse poses huge potential, particularly with regards to how esports and esports wagering can leverage NFTs as potential solution for payments.
He added: “There are good test cases and we want to be at the forefront of this technology and see how we can improve the entertainment experience for customers and get them to embrace it.”
Moving forward, PandaScore’s Head of Sales offered some insights into what can be expected from both the company and the wider esports space going forward, highlighting the rise in popularity of titles such as Valorant.
Of note, the firm plans to conduct further direct integrations at the Tier 1 level and focus on product innovation. Utilising its partnership with Sporting Solutions, PandaScore will continue working on development of revamped widgets and a bet builder product.
When it comes to broader market performance, Niner commented, “It’s going to be interesting to see how the market evolves and the natural fluctuation starts to fit into patterns more regularly. We’re not quite seeing this yet, in terms of pricing, as it’s still quite difficult to predict.
“This is an area where operators need reassurances and need to be able to trust their esports product to perform. One of the things we pride ourselves on at PandaScore is that we offer the true price based on our models and expert traders.
“We focus on making sure that we have the true price for the market, and feel that the more we do that, the performance will continue to improve and betting revenues will continue to grow.”