Betting on the future: bookmakers engaging the esports demographic
The esports sector is widely regarded as a golden opportunity to target a younger demographic. As such, a variety of industries are looking to cash in on esports’ ever-growing popularity.
Even well-known sports teams — such as PSG to the Philadelphia 76ers — are launching esports divisions. Casinos and sportsbooks, including the sector's leaders, are deeply integrated into the esports ecosystem. The esports sector has become a favored gateway to this typically hard-to-reach audience: Millennials and Generation Z.
Due to esports’ reputation of being a rising and fairly young sector, we at Oddin.gg closely and consistently monitor the industry and its ecosystems to identify and better understand esports audiences, which vary across games, regions, cultures, and countries. Ultimately, this ensures that our solutions are fully optimized and we tailor the betting experience with all of these different end users in mind.
Nevertheless, whilst the esports scene as a whole has a sought-after audience demographic, there are concerns that these consumers could be too young for esports betting companies to target and offer services to.
This article analyses the age of esports fans to see if the sector is actually as young as the general population — and brands — often presume. It also looks at how bookmakers and casinos are reacting to the esports phenomenon.
How old are esports fans?
According to Fnatic and Nielsen’s white paper released in January 2022, 68% of global esports fans are under the age of 35. This is significantly different to traditional sports, which saw 66% of sports fans respond they are over the age of 35, almost the total opposite. And whilst the average traditional sports punter gets older with time, the younger esports generation continues to grow with time.
According to the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, the average age of a sports bettor in the US is 38. As such, bookmakers establishing a foothold in the US have an opportunity to attract a younger, largely untapped demographic, as most sports betting products in the US do not focus on esports, creating a gap in the market that is waiting to be filled.
The average age of NFL and MLB fans is 50 and 57 respectively, as reported by the Sports Business Journal in 2017. There is a clearly established upwards trend in age throughout the years, and big sports leagues have a big issue as the younger generation are increasingly less plugged into traditional cable and network television. Existing business models need to change if they are to capture the coming generation.
A 2020 report by Newzoo found that 33 percent of respondents aged 18–20 watched esports ‘several times’ a month. In fact, Newzoo highlighted that the 21–25 age group is the demographic where esports enthusiasts are most often found. Notably too, in its 2022 report, Newzoo stated that the total global esports audience is expected to surpass half a billion this year, which means a +8.7% growth with 261 million esports enthusiasts, and 271 million occasional viewers.
Accurately determining the average age of ‘the esports fan’ benefits a variety of industries — ranging from retail to the gambling industry. One sector that continues to increase its presence in esports - showing a confidence in the audience buying power is the automotive industry, with more and more brands across non-endemic industries being now active across esports.
Being able to correctly identify and understand the demographic they’re targeting, enables companies to maximise gains and avoid potential downfalls. In the esports space, this is perhaps the most vital aspect, due to the complexity of the industry, which can be intimidating to newcomers. Our marketing arm, Jotun.gg, helps customers and partners navigate the esports industry so they can achieve their commercial goals.
Popular esports titles
When it comes to esports betting, it’s largely dominated by three key titles — Counter Strike: Global Offensive (soon to be Counter Strike 2), League of Legends, and Dota 2. To put into context how much these three titles dominate the esports betting market, LOOT.BET revealed that CS:GO occupied more than 53% of total money placed on its website in 2020.
Across the globe, Dota 2 and League of Legends share huge popularity depending on the market. For example, in the CIS region, Dota 2 is much more dominant over League of legends in terms of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena).
Meanwhile in Asia, it is much more complex to determine which titles are the most popular. In China, there are Chinese-specific titles that have their very own ecosystem, while in Korea League of Legends is the most featured. In Southeast Asia, Mobile Legends is also very popular among most countries in the region and the Philippines has a special love for Dota 2.
While there are voices in the industry that speak about underage betting in esports (both in terms of players in the matches, and bettors), these preconceptions about the age of esports fans and players have at this point been thoroughly proven to be false. Back in 2016, Newzoo reported that 50 percent of CS:GO’s player base represented the 19-34 age demographic, with the title’s average age being around 27 years old.
As a video game, Counter-Strike has been around more than 20 years at this point. This kind of longevity is very rare in video games and shows the underlying entertainment value of the game and the esport surrounding it.
Marek Suchar, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Oddin.gg, emphasised: “All the main esports betting titles like Counter-Strike, Dota 2, and League of Legends are more than a decade old. Players who played those games in their 20s are now in their 30s, thus the core audience for esports betting.
“The image of an underaged player living in a basement that wants to bet his mother’s money on esports is definitely a very false bias around esports betting. In addition, bookmakers think people can bet on matches played by underaged players, yet internal analysis by Oddin.gg of more than 100 top esports teams shows that only one would be considered underaged, which is by having the majority of the players of less than 18 years of age.”
Esports’ rising interest from betting companies
The implementation of esports-focused venues near — or as a part of — casinos is another tactic that some establishments have committed to in order to target a younger demographic, better future proof themselves, and diversify their offerings.
In 2019, Caesars Entertainment also partnered with the University of Nevada to establish a technology hub. There are now similar endeavours happening all over the world, as governments and large businesses look to engage younger audiences.
Another appeal to betting firms is esports’ growing relationship and links with traditional sports. Betting and sports have both benefited from partnerships for decades, especially in Europe, so rising interest from sports clubs to invest in esports will likely appeal to those in the betting industry.
Numerous football clubs — see PSG Esports (who’ve partnered with Betway), Wolves, Barcelona — who have all launched esports divisions or teamed up in some capacity with esports organizations.
Esports fans will continue to get older and in general gain more wealth. On top of this, more and more younger people are consuming esports content, following esports stars and spending on associated products. Esports betting has seen and will continue to see staggering growth and far exceeds the growth rate of any sport.
Even simulated tournaments specifically designed for betting purposes (that were spawned as a result of the content drought during the height of COVID-19) continue to see their place among sports betting products and continue to deliver value years later.
The esports community at large is now seen as one of the most important and valuable for many brands across numerous industries, and while there have been issues in the past, esports continues to evolve and professionalize and through the years more and more brands continue to invest in esports and its future.
The betting industry is one which esports companies rely on for more than just revenue, as esports betting products provide an added layer of entertainment, and the fans bet more and more every year.