The escalation of esports betting promotions on both sides of the Atlantic

by MaddOx

In 2021-22, UK tax receipts from betting and gaming weighed in at an impressive £3.1bn, up from £2.8bn in the previous year. The British esports betting scene is now one of the most mature on the planet, underpinned by its regulator, the UKGC. The UKGC’s 2020 review of online sports betting behaviours found the number of bettors that wagered on eSports was up from 6% in 2019 to 9%.

That figure is sure to have risen since too, given the heightened live coverage of eSports events with bookmakers. With an industry that’s been solidified online for almost two decades now, how does the UK’s eSports bonus structure compare with newer markets like the US, where regulated, legal eSports betting has only been available for a matter of months?

There are typically five types of bet promotions you’ll find with UK-licensed operators, each of which has its own terms and conditions to abide by. These terms can range across anything from minimum deposits to minimum odds. As bookmakers are vying for your custom, they can ill-afford to offer underwhelming terms, given the queue of operators behind them waiting to attract you.

The variety of free bets offered to esports fans throughout Europe

The UK and much of mainland Europe now have established, and regulated esports betting within their respective economies. Live eSports streams are now par for the course alongside real-world sports, allowing you to watch a major eSports championship unfold in real-time and wager on the likely outcome.

The world is taking eSports much more seriously of late, with the discipline selected as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Commonwealth Esports Championships image

For those who live in the UK or EU that haven’t yet dabbled in eSports betting, this article shines a spotlight on the types of bonuses available to new customers of sportsbooks that operate hundreds of eSports betting markets. We’ll then compare the strength of these to the promotions up for grabs on the “other side of the pond” in the US, where eSports is considered the next big thing in its betting scene.

Matched Bets

  • A matched bet promotion that sees operators match some or all of your first real-money deposit. Most new customer matched deposit bonuses will offer 100% matches of your first real-money deposit, up to a maximum figure. Matched bonuses are also popular with existing customers as ‘reload offers’, although these are usually 25%-50% of your next deposit.

Free Bet Credits

  • Some online sportsbooks will credit your new account with free bets just for signing up. These free bets are usually much smaller than a matched deposit bonus, given that you don’t usually have to commit any of your own money upfront. Sometimes you may get free bets credited to an existing account, ahead of major eSports events like the League of Legends World Championship or Dota 2’s The International. All of which is designed to drive liquidity.

No-Deposit Bets

  • No-deposit promotions are similar to free bet credits. You are given free bonus funds to wager with, without having to make a real-money deposit of your own. These bonus funds will have wagering requirements attached, preventing you from withdrawing it as real money to your bank account immediately. The lower the wagering requirements, the quicker the bonus can be cleared.

Fixed Bonus on First Deposit

  • Instead of a matched bonus on your first real-money deposit, some sportsbooks will provide a fixed bonus, rather than basing it on a percentage of your initial deposit. This might be marketed as “Deposit at least £10 to get £10 in bonus funds”.

Money-Back Specials

  • If you choose to sign up with an online bookmaker on the eve of a major eSports event, it’s possible they may offer you a money-back special. This means that if your selection narrowly loses you might receive a refund of your wager or a refund in the form of free bet credits.

Risk-Free Bets

  • A risk-free wager usually requires you to make a real-money deposit of your own first up. You can then wager this with zero risk. That’s because the bookmaker will refund your bet if it ends up losing. Some bookies will refund you in direct cash, while others will refund you in free bet credits that will incur wagering requirements before they can be withdrawn.

Many of these eSports free bet promotions are already being replicated in the burgeoning US market, where established offshore operators are bringing their tried and tested promotions to American sports bettors.

League of Legends eSports with G2 Esports playing competitively on stage

The landscape of esports betting promotions in the newly regulated US market

There is a feeling in the US that the country is playing catch-up with Europe in terms of its esports betting industry. The landmark repeal of PASPA in 2018 was a ground-breaking moment for sportsbooks. It cleared the ground for new and established operators to play their part in the launch of regulated and licensed eSports betting markets in individual states. The likes of New Jersey, Nevada and Tennessee were some of the earliest states to legalise eSports betting on and offline. They’ve been exceptional proving grounds for the concept of fair and transparent markets stateside.

It’s no surprise that the esports betting industry is alive and kicking in America. It’s home to the second-largest gaming market on the planet, with an active gaming community of 160 million-plus. Many of the biggest and most successful esports game developers have originated from the US too, including Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Epic Games and Electronic Arts.

Statista believes that American viewership of eSports events will hit 46 million by next year, but despite that many states are still tentative on the legalisation of eSports betting markets. As the legalisation is made at the state level rather than a federal level, the onus is on individual states to take a standpoint on regulated eSports betting. Many are choosing to sit on their hands while a formal regulatory framework for eSports evolves. However, several states have opted to include eSports under the umbrella of legalising bets on “sports events”, bringing competitive video gaming into the same bracket as college sports and Olympic events.

Man esports betting on his mobile phone

As eSports is a new phenomenon, it appeals greatly to the generation of millennial and Gen Z gamers, as well as old-school arcade gamers. It’s said that the eSports betting “boom” is akin to the online poker boom of the mid-2000s. Those states that have taken the bold step to legalise and regulate eSports betting in the US are seeing eSports betting sites reserving their most competitive bonuses for this burgeoning market.

Many esports matched deposit bonuses are worth anything from $500 to $1,000 in bonus funds – some of which have very little wagering requirements attached either. It’s still always important to read the fine print of every bonus you take so that you go into each promotion with your eyes wide open.

When it comes to the range of betting markets for eSports events, enthusiasts can cover all kinds of aspects of a tournament or an individual match-up. Outright wagers can be placed on potential winning teams or individuals of competitions. Meanwhile, the markets in individual matches allow you to wager on anything from first blood and first map winner through to most kills or most headshots. All of which require an in-depth knowledge of these video games and the attributes of the eSports stars playing them.

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Ubaso Nwaozuzu June 18, 2022 - 5:51 pm

I agree with Maddox that eSports is a booming industry and trendy among millennials and Gen Z gamers.

However, I think states should legalize and regulate eSports betting so it can be monitored appropriately.

I love that there are many betting markets for eSports events, as it allows enthusiasts to cover all aspects of a tournament or an individual match-up.

This is a great way to get people interested in eSports and get them invested in the outcome of the events.

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