Much of the attention around the legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts centers on well-known existing operators who already have a footprint in the state or have mobile betting licenses in other states. However, another realm of sports wagering that can potentially make a huge splash when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) finalizes regulations is esports betting.
The burgeoning esports industry is set to have a place in the state’s sports betting ecosystem. Gamer fans in the state who love watching video game competitions on streaming platforms like Twitch and Discord might have the opportunity to bet on popular esports events. These include the League of Legends World Championships, the Fortnite World Cup, and Dota 2’s The International.
Prize pools for these competitions are lucrative. For example, the International’s prize pool in 2021 was about $40 million. Esport viewership is also impressive, with millions of fans tuning in from around the world via multiple broadcasters and dozens of platforms to watch title matchups. The 2021 League of Legends final had 4 million viewers, not counting the Chinese audience.
4 MILLION VIEWERS!#WORLDS2021
— Esports Charts 🇺🇦 (@EsportsCharts) November 6, 2021
Given the popularity and amount of money involved in esports competitions, it is no surprise that wagering on competitive video games is on the way. It is already legal in about a dozen states, including Connecticut and New Jersey.
Well-known sportsbooks that want to do business in Massachusetts, such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and Caesars, already offer esports wagering in some states. Gamer fans in New Jersey were the first to be able to place bets on competitive video gaming in 2019, and FanDuel was in on the action, becoming the first online sportsbook to accept bets for esports.
Fierce Competition For Licensure
The Massachusetts sports betting law includes three categories of sports betting licensing for operators. Category one is for existing casino operators in the state. Category two is for live horse racing venues. Category three is specifically for operators who plan only to offer online sports betting. The state will limit licensing in this category to just seven operators. So, the competition will be fierce for online sportsbooks.
Potential Esports Operators
Over 40 operators have shown an interest in offering sports wagering in the state via the MGC’s Notice of Intent process. The agency has yet to announce a formal licensing process.
In addition to FanDuel and DraftKings, existing operators who filed a notice with the MGC and have ventured into esports betting include Seminole Hard Rock Digital, Bet365, and Unibet.
G3 Esports, an agency specializing in esports, gaming, and entertainment products, also filed a notice of intent. The company aims to offer a unique platform built specifically for esports and videogame competitions. According to CEO Anthony Gaud, the company has been working on the dedicated esports betting platform for three and a half years and has a high-profile sports media partner on board to help launch “the first mass-market esports media website.”
While G3 Esports will be vying for a license against other well-known operators for one of the seven licenses, the laser focus on esports could be a factor in their favor.
The MGC has been logging long hours holding public meetings to discuss and get feedback on the new sports betting law and its regulation. The public meeting on Sept. 8 lasted nearly seven hours.
So far, the commission has approved expedited procedures to approve two betting equipment testing labs and has prioritized discussion of sports wagering house rules and temporary licenses for qualified operators. However, an official launch date for sports betting in Massachusetts is still unknown at this time.