IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, of Brazil, practices on his racing simulator in his home in Indianapolis. Kanaan, along with other IndyCar drivers and NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson competed in the series' inaugural virtual racing event. Michael Conroy/AP
IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan, of Brazil, practices on his racing simulator in his home in Indianapolis. Kanaan, along with other IndyCar drivers and NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson competed in the series' inaugural virtual racing event. Michael Conroy/AP

Punters shift to eSports after global sports shutdown

By Xilombe Mathye Time of article published Apr 15, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - eSports is where the sports betting industry has found its market in these unprecedented times.

It has been just over three weeks since President Cyril Ramaphosa put all social entertainment, including sporting leagues and events, on halt across the country due to the coronavirus  pandemic.

And while the nation has been on lockdown, sporting codes around the country continue to battle the effects the action has had on their leagues and revenues.

So too, has the sports betting industry been affected as the number of wagers, unsurprisingly, has diminished, causing a massive income cut in the industry.

“Sports betting makes up a significant portion of our betting revenue,” explained Devin Heffer, brand and communications manager of HollywoodBets.

“However, we have marketed different betting options to our clients to keep them entertained, including limited horse racing, Betgames Africa, Lucky Numbers, eSports and Jika Sports (animated soccer and animated horse racing).”

“For your average sports punters, it’s more the loss of entertainment and weekly thrill of finding a winner that they are missing out on,” said Heffer.

Even so, Heffer said that sports lovers can still partake in sporting bets, in spite of the lockdown, saying: “There are still international horse racing events occurring in Australia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, the US and Sweden.”

And these were not the only options in these trying times.

Said Heffer: “In addition, there are also some soccer leagues continuing, as well as various smaller sports such as volleyball and table tennis. Lucky Numbers (betting on the outcome of lotto results) and Betgames Africa provide entertainment and opportunities for many punters.

“However, a big focus has shifted toward eSports and eSoccer, where leagues involving games such as Fifa, CS:GO, Dota 2 and League of Legends take place.”

The betting movement into eSports is understandable, and not purely because of the lack of live sports.

In recent years there has been a significant shift towards the industry - last year Forbes estimated that eSports had grown to over $1-billion in revenue, while betting at the beginning of the year was estimated to reach close to $13b during 2020.

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