By Tim Poole
As the sports betting calendar edges closer to total decimation, and retail properties face indefinite closures, all eyes are turning to what verticals can replace these traditional sources of gaming revenue.
In theory, online casino should thrive, while online poker could receive an unexpected boost. Anything mobile should see tremendous growth and virtual sports may benefit from the current situation, too.
But there exists an already-booming vertical which stands to gain even further from bettors being confined to their own homes: esports wagering.
As Quentin Martin, CEO of esports betting site Luckbox, explains: "While the esports calendar has also been affected, it’s much more resilient in this situation because matches can be played online, without players needing to be in the same place.
"And, while having fans live in an arena generates a great atmosphere, it doesn’t make too much difference to the hundreds of thousands of fans watching via live stream."
Here, the digital nature of the vertical has never been more advantageous.
Those who promised esports would overtake traditional sports eventually, including Parimatch CEO Sergey Portnov in an interview with Gambling Insider last year, have received an unexpectedly tangible boost to their claims.
For Luckbox, there are hard numbers to back up the most recent rise in esports interest.
Martin says: "So far, the early indications are that esports betting volumes will increase – we’ve seen a 54% increase in new player registrations in the past week – since it was announced the English Premier League would be postponed.
"It figures that players who enjoy sports betting are more inclined to give esports a try, with little else to bet on.
"Many sports fans are self-isolating or in lockdown and esports is pretty much the only show in town at the moment."
For sports fans, there will certainly be a direct correlation.
If esports brands and operators are tactical enough, they could attract a wide audience of football fans to simply bet on games of FIFA instead: same teams, same players, just with some actual matches still being played.
On the esports calendar, competitions such as ESL Pro League Season 11 (CS:GO) will simply switch to an online-only format rather than being postponed or cancelled, while CS:GO has broken the 1,000,000 mark for concurrent players for the first time in its 20-year history.
For both esports gamers, viewers and bettors, then, it is business as usual.
But for sports fans, there’s a viable alternative to sitting bored and simply waiting for the sporting calendar to resume.