Overwatch League coming to US – but is eSports betting going to take hold?

  • Overwatch League will likely lead to eSports betting market
  • Nevada looking to seize initiative, with casinos offering sportsbook on fast-growing phenomenon

Video game developer Activision Blizzard has announced that its hugely popular Overwatch League is headed to the US, spearheading the launch of a host of eSports franchises.

A new US Overwatch league franchise is likely to raise the issue of eSports betting.
A new US Overwatch league franchise is likely to raise the issue of eSports betting.

The brand new league has got some major backing as well with New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft among those who’ve taken a stake in the new venture.

The cost of entry to the league isn’t cheap, with Activision Blizzard believed to have been seeking a franchise fee of $20 million for each team. As the world’s first city-based professional eSports league, Overwatch is primely positioned to capitalize on the craze for eSports, and where players and fans go, bettors swiftly follow.

eSports bettors face same situation as regular sports punters

eSports and betting are intertwined, but the situation is complicated in the US, where sports betting is largely outlawed at federal level.

US punters aren’t completely shut out from eSports betting: William Hill US has now partnered with Downtown Grand Casino to accept eSports wagers. Aspiring bettors will need to journey to Nevada to legally place their bets at the Las Vegas casino, but for the novelty value alone, some eSports diehards may deem the mission worthwhile.

In doing so, they’ll become the first US citizens to (legally) place an eSports bet at a sportsbook in the country. It will be a historic moment, but whether it will herald a sea change in America’s stance on sports betting remains to be seen.

Nevada has been leading the way for eSports betting in the US, with the state’s Gaming Control Board having already categorised it as an athletic sports event. The players involved might not be displaying much athleticism, but for the purposes of betting in Las Vegas, eSports is a sport. “We are proud that the Downtown Grand will be the home to the first regulated eSports wager in America,” said casino CEO Seth Schorr. “The team at the Downtown Grand has worked hard to establish itself as a truly unique eSports destination.”

Market shows no sign of slowing

With Overwatch League team owners now positioned in Boston, New York, LA, Miami, San Francisco, Shanghai and Seoul, the stage is set for some epic battles in the months to come as teams blast their way through the multiplayer shooter. Having accrued over 30 million players in just over a year, Overwatch has proven to be a resounding success.

Now, with the launch of the world’s first city-based pro league, the game is poised to go stratospheric, helping to bring eSports to a vast new audience. Whether the betting will follow, is still unclear, but a lot of money is being put in to exploit the market all over the world.

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