Casino Esport Conference panelists remain bullish on esports wagering despite slow start

March 1, 2023 8:39 PM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
March 1, 2023 8:39 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States

In spite of Americans being slow to adopt esports wagering compared to the rest of the world, a group of industry experts said it’s just a matter of time before it grows in popularity.

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The Casino Esports Conference concluded Wednesday with a panel discussion on esports betting and why it’s taking so long to catch on with the public.

“I believe esports wagering will be the next big thing,” said Anthony Gaud, CEO of the G3 Gaud-Hammer Gaming Group. “Sometimes the next big thing is right around the corner and a lot of us are working to create the next steps in a field where people have put in a lot of money. Some people haven’t seen the returns they expected, which I think are going to be there.”

Paris Smith, CEO of Pinnacle Sports, which was one of the first sportsbooks to accept esports wagers, said esports is massive globally and international tournaments are as big as an NBA Finals game. To get to where people expect it to be starts with regulators in the U.S. who are working to make it fair and have integrity.

“The data and game providers have a huge play in this, but the problem is they’re making it too expensive for how small it still is at this stage,” Smith said. “As an operator, how do you pay $1 million a year for data when you don’t have anyone playing in esports. It’s an ecosystem that has to come together — starting with the regulators and the marketing for how you get these players. Pinnacle has been successful in esports, because I’m not trying to direct people on how to grow the business. We have people who are sports players and fans.”

Anthony Strangia, deputy Attorney General with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said about half of the state’s authorized sportsbooks accept esports wagers. Each event needs to be approved by regulators, which limits the wagers that can be accepted and makes it harder to market.

“The events approved are increasing, so we anticipate esports wagers as a volume of total wagers will increase in the future,” Strangia said. “I think we’re on the right track.”

Vlastimil Venclik, founder and CEO of, a European-based esports odds compiler, said esports is huge in Europe, South America, and Asia and that it will take some time to catch on in the U.S. Regulators need to expand the portfolio of wagering options for tournaments.

“New tournaments are created every year and it takes time for approval,” Venclik noted, calling for speeding up that process. “Otherwise, it’s too complicated for sportsbooks to accept wagers on esports. It’s the chicken and the egg in the U.S. Everyone says it’s going to be slow, so we won’t invest more, but if they don’t invest more, it won’t be big. It’s a never-ending cycle.”

Nevada implemented new rules this year that allow sportsbooks to offer expanded wagering on esports tournaments and events and received praise from panelists.

Venclik, who testified in Nevada on behalf of esports-wagering expansion, said he’s trying to work with regulators in other states to expand wagering.

Gaud said there’s a lack of about what esports is. A lot of people are interested, but don’t follow the leagues when they are playing and aren’t knowledgeable about the stars of the sport.

“In Asia and Europe, the stars are home-grown,” Gaud said. “The American scene hasn’t grown a lot of American players who’ve become famous yet.”

Gaud recently spoke with Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, who had invested heavily in esports and thought it was a mistake. “My response to Mark is that it was too premature,” Gaud said.

Game publishers are scared of gambling in esports, thus they don’t want to be a part of it and therefore aren’t supporting it. Gaud said that and other problems, however, will be resolved.

Venclik noted the stigma attached to wagering on esports, because it’s new to game publishers. They’re not supporting betting, but they’re not against it either, he said.

“It will take time for them to start thinking about betting and we need to impress on them the revenue portion of this,” Venclik said. “It needs to bring them revenue. Otherwise, it’s under their radar.”