The recent deal between SIS Content Services, a subsidiary of Sports Information Services group, and bet365 to become New Jersey’s first non-tournament esports provider might seem to be another minor step in the development of esports in the United States.
But the agreement, which supplies SIS Competitive Gaming products to its partner bet365, potentially changes how bettors wager on esports. Instead of waiting hours for the outcome of a tournament, SIS contests in ebasketball, esoccer, and Counter-Strike take place in a matter of minutes.
“We produce short-form games, ensuring the highest standard of integrity,” says SIS Content Services Vice President Michele Fischer. “Our events are made for betting and solve the issues that traditional esports face: video latency, inconsistent statistics, underage players, evenly matched games, and inconsistent regulatory oversight.”
Esports has seen steady growth over the last few years. According to Statista.com, the global esports market was valued at $1.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $1.4 billion in 2022.
Tournaments can attract thousands of fans to venues, with millions viewing online. Esports Charts reported that the League of Legends 2022 World Championships grand final in San Francisco had 5.1 million concurrent viewers.
And even though most esports competitors and fans are teenagers, 40% of viewers of esports matches are over the age of 25, according to ResearchGate.net. As esports fans age, they’re more likely to have disposable income and presumably more likely to wager on contests.
“Our goal is to provide engaging entertainment for sports bettors, while giving the operators consistent 24/7 content composed of short-form profitable betting events,” Fischer says. “An esports offering that has long strung-out matches where it’s obvious which team or player will come out on top way before the end of the action is not useful for the operator or engaging for the viewer.”
SIS employs all the competitors for its esports contests. Fischer admits they’re not on the level of the best players, such as Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon, Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker, or Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. But SIS players, some of whom are recent college graduates and employed full-time by the company, undergo extensive training and practice before entering contests.
“We thought we would have a lot more turnover than we do, but they tend to stay with us,” Fischer says of the approximately 150 players on its roster.
It was important for SIS to establish an operation in New Jersey, because of the Garden State’s reputation for welcoming and promoting esports. In 2019, New Jersey approved esports betting in time for the League of Legends World Championship final match. In June 2021, New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill to include esports in the state’s legal sports-betting industry, allowing licensed operators to accept bets on esports up to $100.
Fischer says SIS targeted New Jersey for its U.S. launch, because of the state’s reputation for excellent sports-betting standards.
“Sportsbook suppliers undergo rigorous background investigation and products are thoroughly tested,” Fischer says. “The state of New Jersey has also been a champion for esports in general. We plan to offer our Competitive Gaming products in all states that allow esports on their product catalog and being able to point to being operational in New Jersey is very helpful.”
SIS, founded in 1986 and headquartered in the United Kingdom, is best known as a supplier of horse-racing content for global operators. Fischer has an extensive background in thoroughbred racing, currently serving as president of Darting Star, a consulting firm specializing in horse-racing operations and global wagering systems, in addition to her duties with SIS.
She . horse racing and esports have some similarities, including an analytical aspect. SIS supplies player statistics based on their contests that are analogous to racing-form past performances for horses.
Fischer says that SIS is attempting to create betting opportunities similar to a horse race, with outcomes occurring quickly rather than over extended timeframes. SIS contests are set up to be fair and competitive, much like most horse races are drawn to cast the final outcome in doubt.
“It’s no fun when you watch a contest where’s there’s an overwhelming favorite,” Fischer says. “What’s fun is when you’re watching a horse race with two or three or more horses that can win. We’re looking to create the same sort of thing with our contests.”