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iGaming NEXT NYC: Esports are “the sport of the internet”
Sharpr is a weekly newsletter covering the intersection of esports and betting
Hi everyone, Cody here.
It’s almost April and temperatures across the Northeast are finally starting to warm up, albeit at a painfully slow pace...
But enough of the small talk. This week we walk through some of the interesting points made at iGaming NEXT NYC’s esports betting panel earlier this month. Apart from that, I’m cooking up some new additions to the newsletter and rolling over other areas of expansion: new editions, analysis, and exclusive content to vamp this bad boy up a little. I’ll follow up on that more soon.
In the interim, enjoy this week’s newsletter and have a great weekend ☀️
In this week’s edition of Sharpr…
iGaming NEXT NYC: Esports are “the sport of the internet.”
Unikrn enters multi-year partnership with BLAST.
Neymar caught in the Twitch gambling drama.
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iGaming NEXT NYC: Esports are “the sport of the internet”
Esports betting stakeholders were among the many delegates that descended on Manhattan for iGaming Next NYC earlier this month.
The conference attracted many senior leaders, and there was certainly no shortage of compelling sessions. From Betr CEO Joey Levy’s moment in the hot seat to the now-infamous remarks from BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt when asked about accepting bets on the WWE.
Still, esports betting got its time in the limelight during a session with executives from Rivalry, Oddin, GRID, and H2 Gaming Capital. We sat down through the 30-minute panel to pull out the most interesting pieces.
One of the main threads from this session was that the opportunity in esports betting is much larger than the segment itself. It’s a chance to acquire and engage the next generation of sports bettors.
“A whole generation of people that grew up on the internet [are] now coming of age, and the sport of the internet is video games – it’s undeniable,” said Rivalry’s EVP of Corp. Development Billy Levy.*
Rivalry knows a thing or two about this audience. More than 80% of its active users are under 30-years old – that’s about a decade younger than industry incumbents. *
Indeed, Levy says that it’s not all about esports betting at the company, it’s about “bringing customers into an experience that they’re familiar with” and cross-selling them on traditional sports or casino. Rivalry has carved out a few niches for itself, one of which is through an elaborate visual expression that speaks to an audience of the internet–i.e., Gen Z and Millennial consumers.*
“This audience requires a completely different approach and gaming is the language they speak,” he added.
Moritz Maurer, CEO of data company GRID, echoed that thought, saying that the investment in the esports audience was a bet on the future.
“If you manage to capture this generation–what we think of betting consumers and media or entertainment consumers in general–you are really future-proofing your business,” he said.
Still, operators pursuing esports are going after a very thin slice of the sports betting pie. Ed Birkin, managing director at H2 Gaming Capital, said that data from the UK showed that esports represented 1% of total betting in 2020. Measuring a more current and global figure has been a historically difficult number to pinpoint, although Oddin CEO Vlastimil Venclik estimated the global handle was around $14B.
“I think there’s a lot of future potential growth, I just don’t think it’s going to come from the big operators,” Birkin said. “There’s so much more areas of growth for operators to go for.”
Sports betting is unfolding rapidly across North America, and for most tier-one operators, a second wasted feels like a lifetime of market share has slipped through their fingers. The stakes are high for operators, and there’s no margin for error.
Putting even a degree of vocal faith behind esports when billions of dollars are being generated in more prominent categories means opening yourself up to overwhelming public criticism and a can of public market whoop-ass.
It would be unsurprising for the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings to have esports strategies in the pipeline (DraftKings inked a partnership with FaZe Clan in 2021). But going on-record and standing behind it is a way different story in the current sports betting gold rush.
🦈 Sharpr Take: I’m pretty honest and grounded when it comes to the esports betting market. When you draw comparisons between esports and traditional sports betting volume it paints an abysmal picture, but to me that’s a fairly naive and narrow viewpoint.
The opportunity today (for most regions) is in the consumer, not the category. A younger, digitally native cohort that, in about ten years time, will represent the dominant consumer base.
Esports and gaming is the entry point to this generation of consumers. It’s not necessarily a new or groundbreaking concept – brands from Wendy’s to BMW, Gucci and countless more have invested money into gaming for that reason, but the sports betting industry continues to look at the space one dimensionally.
Unikrn enters multi-year partnership with BLAST
Unikrn has entered a multi-year global partnership with esports event organizer BLAST.
The partnership will see Unikrn’s branding across BLAST’s event coverage and promotions, including fan activations, social giveaways, broadcast integrations, and more.
The deal will include key upcoming events including the BLAST Premier tournament series and BLAST.tv Paris Major.
BLAST is a prominent organizer of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive esports tournaments, having hosted events in London, Copenhagen, Miami, and São Paulo.
Unikrn CEO Justin Dellario said the company is keen to activate around the world-class CS:GO competitions hosted by BLAST.
“Unikrn is built for these moments, when fans are looking for the deepest and best possible experience as they root on their favorite players and teams.”
🗞 In the news
Real Luck Group will reveal its new microbetting product in Q3.
Soccer star Neymar livestreamed online casino gambling on Twitch this week, losing over $1M (of presumably house money) in the process.
SIS hires two new senior staff to join its competitive gaming division.
📈 By the numbers
US consumers spent $157B on gambling activities last year – casinos captured 63% of the pie.
William Hill was ordered to pay a record $23.6M in fines for “social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.”
Enthusiast Gaming recorded a net loss of $56.6M for FY 2022.
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*Disclaimer: I am a full-time employee of Rivalry.