If e-sports -- a.k.a competitive video gaming -- really are the next big thing in sports, then betting on e-sports is the next big thing in gambling, and established bookmakers are getting ready.
"This is the future of sports, and we have to focus on that so we don’t get left behind," said Adam Smith, spokesman for Sky Betting. "We just need to put ourselves in the shop window a little more."
Most regulated sports books outside the U.S. already offer bets on e-sports, but up until recently most of the action happened in the dark, unregulated by authorities. That appears to be changing. Washington-based video game developer Valve said in July that it would take action against the gambling sites that illegally used its software as currency. The move shuttered a number of unregulated sports book -- the biggest, called CSGO Lounge, shut down last week -- and will push a number of e-sports gamblers to established gambling houses.
"We see this as a major opportunity," said Moritz Maurer, head of e-sports at London-based Genius Sports, which provides odds, live data feeds and integrity monitoring services to its clients. "If you want to invest in e-sports gambling, this is the time."
The unregulated e-sports gambling market, most of which relied on a virtual currency called skins, was on pace to reach $7.4 billion this year, according to estimates from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming and Narus Advisors. That’s 12 times larger than the e-sports bets at regulated books.