The popularity of esports betting has exploded over the past decade. What used to be a hobby between friends has grown into a global phenomenon that currently rakes in over $15 billion annually. Although so many bettors have entered this market, there are plenty of people still scratching their heads. What exactly does esport betting involve?
Esports refers to multiplayer video games that are streamed online. Not just any videogame will draw bettors, though. There are two main collections of games that make up the vast majority of esports: traditional sports and combat-centric games.
In this guide, you’ll find out all the information you need to know to start betting on esports. We’ll introduce you to the best websites, how to choose a reputable bookmaker, top tournaments, and which popular esports games to keep an eye on. It’s all ahead, so keep reading.
Best esports betting sites in 2021
There are hundreds of reliable esports betting sites, but only a few of them are worth your time and money. The websites we’ve included below are well-known and trusted. They each have a good history among players, offer plenty of ways to deposit, and include extra perks and promotions on their site.
Betway | This gambling site has been in business since 2006. It continues to expand game collection and betting options, which has led to an internationally loyal player base. Betway offers one of the most diverse esports portfolios in the world, in addition to their traditional sportsbook and casino. Among their perks are a $30 free bet on esports for new members.
Bovada | Esport bettors have found another home with Bovada. This website was launched in 2011 and offers esports within their larger sportsbook selection. Members appreciate that this site is optimized for mobile devices without the need to download an app. Other highlights include a wide selection of bonuses and the option to make payments with Bitcoin.
Unikrn | The Unikrn platform is perhaps the most well-known in the esports betting industry. Unlike the competitors, its primary focus is on esports. They offer a wide range of bets, including the ability to bet on oneself in an upcoming tournament or live stream through UMode. Unikrn also allow bettors to gamble with onsite credits in exchange for skins and other perks.
Loot.bet | Loot.bet stands out because it’s one of the only top platforms dedicated entirely to betting on esport games. They have a wider variety of bets than most of their competitors, including the highly sought after option to place in-game wagers. All major esports are supported on this site, along with a handful of less popular tournaments. They offer new members a 100% deposit match up to $200.
Is eSports betting legal?
People around the world bet on esports every day, but is it legal? This is an excellent question to ask, and the answer will depend on your location. Most forms of online wagering are regulated to some extent in each country. There are no global rules in place.
If your country permits wagering on live sports league matches or casino games, esports are probably approved as well. Countries with different states or regions may have a more complex set of rules. For example, esports betting sites for United States punters are not illegal on a federal level, but the state of Indiana does prohibit it.
Not sure what the rules are in your location? You can always try to open a site with esports betting – platforms that don’t allow bettors from your area will let you know. Keep in mind that esports bookmakers can only accept wagers for individuals age 18 or older.
How to find an esports bookmaker
Before you place your first wager, you’ll need to find a trusted bookie with esports betting available. It can seem daunting for new players to figure out the best esports betting sites for their style, but it can be easy. Follow the steps below for a straightforward, no-hassle way to get started.
Step 1 | Understand that there are legally and illegally operated websites. To protect your privacy and security, always choose a platform with a license. There are a handful of international licensing bodies, like the Malta Gaming Authority, and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission, the UK Gambling Commission, and Curaçao.
A licensed platform has agreed to follow laws and regulations set for by the gambling authority. This includes a commitment to fair odds and cybersecurity, among other things. You can spot a licensing badge in the footer of any wagering site or by doing a quick search in your browser.
Step 2 | Take your time to find out what other gamblers are saying. People love to talk, and it’s easy to find hundreds of bettor reviews and guides for any platform. This can fill you in about how effective the customer support really is or whether there are issues with the user interface, for example.
Step 3 | Learn about the common markets available for the esport games you’re interested in. Different bookies will offer different matches, rates, and timelines for placing your bets. If you aren’t yet sure which markets you’re most interested in, make sure to choose a website that offers a decent spread of choices. Also keep in mind whether you want to try in-play esports betting, as only select platforms have this option available.
Step 4 | The final step before committing to an account is looking into any bookmaker bonus opportunities. The best bookie sites offer some sort of incentive to stand out from the competition. Many sites have bonuses for new accounts, while others offer them on a less exclusive basis.
Promotions and bonuses for esports betting
Like all forms of online gambling, bonus offers are a significant part of betting on esports. We’ll walk you through the main three types of promotions: free bets, deposit bonuses, and cashback programs. Each has their perks, so it’s up to you to find what suits your budget and preferred betting style.
Free bets | This type of promo is precisely what it sounds like – it gives the ability to place free bets. They’re usually awarded one at a time, and the value of the bet can vary. It’s not uncommon to see single free bets in the $20 to $30 range. You can find these as a new player bonus or occasionally as a site-wide promo.
Deposit bonuses | A deposit bonus is a good way to gain extra money when you’re already planning on adding money for betting esports. This type of promotion is very common among welcome bonuses, but they show up in other ways too. A 100% deposit match means that the betting site will double your money. Keep in mind there’s usually a minimum deposit and a cap.
Cashback programs | Cashback programs are usually featured on the best esports betting websites. Let’s face it – even the most knowledgeable bettors are bound to have bad weeks. When that happens, a cashback program will return a portion of your losses. This amount varies, but typically caps out at 10%.
Esports live betting
Fans of esports enjoy the excitement of watching their favorite streams and championships as they unfold. However, in-play esports betting has been largely unavailable. Wagering on live video games is much more difficult to set up than it is for traditional sports or casino games. There are a few reasons for this, but it mostly comes down to the sheer complexity and differences between titles.
Setting up esports live betting may be fairly straightforward for a game like FIFA. On the other hand, a game like League of Legends (LoL) has fast-paced, unpredictable possibilities. Figuring out which markets to offer – such as first blood or first dragon – takes time. And of course, the bookmakers like to set up odds that help them come out on top with league of legends betting
Even with these challenges, there are a few top esports sites that have rolled out in-play betting. Platforms like ArcaneBet offer well-rounded markets and diverse games based on the bookie’s knowledge. Each tournament on ArcaneBet with live betting is accompanied by direct access to the Twitch stream through an embedded video.
Types of bets you can place on esports
As you might guess, there are quite a few esports market choices (betting options). The markets available will depend on the particular game being played and the bookmaker. The following list doesn’t contain every kind of market out there, of course. But you can look it over for a general introduction to the five most common online esports betting types.
Moneyline bet | A moneyline bet is considered the best option for new punters looking to place a bet for the first time. Moneylines are straightforward – you only have to choose the winner. That’s not to say you don’t need knowledge about the esports matches you watch. However, it’s easier for beginners to a team based on trends before they dive into more complex decisions.
Player/MVP bet | This wagering option can come with great odds and is ideal for those who know the esports players competing in a championship. Placing a bet on a gamer to do well is a little riskier, since one person is the single biggest factor in whether you win or lose. Even professional players can have off days. But if you keep track of how well your favorite esports players perform, it’s still a relatively safe option.
Total/Over/Under | How well do you know your champions? If you’re familiar with specific players or teams and their group dynamics, a total or over/under bet might be in your wheelhouse. Instead of wagering on the overall outcome of the game, you can place a bet on specific elements of gameplay. For example, you choose which team will kill 10 NPCs or collect an item first.
Most kills bet | The name of this bet type is self-explanatory. You can wager on which team will come away from a match with the most kills. A lot of practiced bettors will gamble on the winning team to be the team with the most kills, so they couple a moneyline with a most kills bet. Even though this is a simple bet to make, take a good look at the heroes’ roster before you put your money down. Even a losing team can be filled with aggressive players that go for those high kill counts.
Map betting | Certain esports, such as LoL, operate on different maps. The esport odds for map betting are usually far better than any moneyline or player bet you come across. The catch is that you need to be an expert fan to turn a profit. To make this kind of wager work, you need to understand how different teams perform on different maps, terrains, or locations within the world of the game. Your goal during a multi-map game is to call which team comes out on top for each round.
How to deposit to bet on esports
Before you start winning esports prize money, you’ll need to make a deposit to an online gambling account. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up on your preferred website for placing cybersport bets. Look out for any promo codes you might want to take advantage of and head to the payments tab.
There are a lot of options available for making a deposit. Some platforms aim to be more competitive by providing the widest possible array of choices – but don’t forget to check whether you can access them from your location. Here are the most common ways to add money to your account.
Paypal | Paypal is one of the easiest ways to add money to your account. Players like it for its added layer of security and low fees.
Visa or Mastercard | These cards are accepted around the globe and make transferring money straightforward.
American Express | Though less commonly accepted than Visa and Mastercard, a fair number of sites do accept AmEx payments.
Bitcoin | Quite a handful of the best bookie sites for esports have added Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency options to their accepted forms of deposit.
Virtual wallets (Skrill, Neteller) | Virtual wallets are simple to use, and names like Skrill and Neteller are widely accepted.
Wire Transfers | Wire transfer give you a straightforward way to send money, as it’s transferred directly from your bank account. Processing times can vary widely for this option.
Money Transfers | Money transfers tend to carry higher fees are chosen less often, but they are available for those who enjoy the added layer of security.
Cash Deposits | In some jurisdictions, it is legal to have a land-based location tied to a virtual platform. In that case, you can bring a cash deposit to the location and have it added to your account when you’re there in person.
Most popular esports games for betting
We’ve mentioned a couple of popular titles available at the best esports betting websites. If you haven’t found a favorite streamer, championship, or esports title yet, this will serve as a decent introduction. Keep in mind that this is an overview of the most well-known games.
The three biggest names in esports are CS:GO, LoL, and Dota 2. These require a more detailed explanation since they aren’t as easily understood by bettors who aren’t fans, and this is provided down below. You’ll notice quickly that they all feature the same general setups for players, teams, and objectives.
CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive)
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the fourth game in the Counter-Strike series, and it’s by far the most successful. CS:GO is a multiplayer first-person shooter game. This means that each player views the game from their character’s point of view and must use weapons and other skills to complete certain objectives. Csgo betting is very popular between fans, especially on major events.
League of legends (LOL)
League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, game. Two teams compete against each other, and each team has five players. Players choose their champions (characters) and fight to collect experience points and special items while interacting with other players and NPCs (non-player characters).
Dota 2 is also a MOBA game. Dota stands for Defense of the Ancients, and LoL was actually inspired by this game’s predecessor. Both Dota titles and LoL are reimaginings of Warcraft III. The similarities between this title and LoL are clear when you look at the game mechanics and objectives. Dota 2 betting is a popular way to find some fun during the match
Two teams, each with five players, fight against each other. Individuals compete to gain the most experience points and collectable items. Rather than champions, player characters are called heroes. Each team tries to infiltrate the opposing team’s base to disable their Ancient, another large structure.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. It’s worth noting that a handful of lesser-known esports are becoming more popular. These games include Rocket League, Overwatch betting, Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, among others. It will be interesting to see if any of these rise to the fame that the major three have attained.
How esports market grows
The existence of online esports betting has been around for a couple of decades now but it wasn’t until that last few years that it gained a significant amount of momentum. In this time period, the number of players, fans, and bettors has exploded. Surprisingly, players are the slowest-growing group in this regard.
What sparked the change? Before, most esports were subject to smaller, local wagering pools. Only “computer geeks” spent their time online, so most people had never heard of it. Then came Twitch. This isn’t the first streaming platform, but it is without a doubt the most popular.
In fact, 2020 estimates showed there were roughly 495 million fans who followed virtual sports leagues, tournaments, and professional players. The number of fans is growing by around 10% each year, according to an article published by NewZoo. The esports industry has become quite profitable, raking in $1.1 billion from sponsorships and related media contracts for phone games and shows.
Several ways to place a bet on esports
We’ve discussed the options available when you want to make cash payments to bet on esports games. However, the worlds of these games are immersive, and some and players care less about real-world money and seek out perks in the digital world.
In fact, these popular esports games are free to play. The software companies make their money by offering paid in-game upgrades. From new weapons and skills to different outfits and items, more professional players spend quite a bit of money to come out on top. Read on as we discuss the four betting types you’ll find available in the esports market.
Traditional: esports betting for money
Earlier we discussed some of the options for making payments and claiming currency-based deposit bonuses. This is the traditional style of betting at sportsbooks. Whether you log in, call in, or walk up, you can use money to place your bets.
There are a couple of pros to this type of bet. The first is that it’s quite easy to find a reputable sportsbook with a trusted bookie. Some websites like bet365 have a long history in the gambling industry and offer esport matches.
However, you’ll find that most traditional sportsbooks haven’t integrated esports betting yet. Those that have usually have pretty limited selection. That’s true for esport odd, markets, and titles. Any of the best esports betting sites listed toward the beginning of this site will accept traditional bets.
Fantasy eSports betting
One clear drawback of traditional sportsbook betting is that it’s not legal everywhere. Some jurisdictions, namely the United States, have strict laws that make betting on esports nearly impossible unless you’re physically in Nevada or New Jersey.
However, this only applies to those who are staking money against a bookmaker. The laws prohibiting bettor-to-bettor exchanges are essentially non-existent. This is where fantasy betting comes in handy.
You can create your ideal lineup of professional players for each title you follow. Their performance throughout championship game and tournaments will affect the success of your fantasy lineup. Bettors compete with one another to create the best lineup possible based on stats – and the winner collects money from the others.
Skins betting is a catch-all term for wagering with anything that can be transferred within the game itself. This includes abilities, power-ups, specialized weapons, and other items. Keep in mind that some of these can be bought with real money. While the money itself isn’t being wagered or exchanged, there is a grey area when it comes to categorizing this kind of bet.
Quite a few esports players don’t even consider this a type of gambling. It’s a fairly informal process that’s usually just between the players or teams themselves. For example, a champion in LoL might bet someone on their team that they can snag a higher kill count. Whoever wins might be awarded a rare item.
As you can probably guess, this type of betting is nearly impossible to regulate. It happens so frequently and effortlessly that tracking these exchanges would be quite challenging for an authoritative body. Still, skin betting is a key component of esports gambling available exclusively to the gamers themselves.
Social eSports betting
Lastly, there’s social betting. This refers to bets between friends and fellow players. If you swap a few dollars with your buddy when your preferred team loses a CS:GO match. It’s not regulated, but it’s also not common. Few fans or bettors have people in their direct social circle who are always ready to place a cash wager.