The Nevada Gaming Control Board took the landmark step of approving wagering on the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) ESL Pro League this week, giving sportsbooks an esports betting option at a time when there is little else to bet on.
William Hill became the first bookmaker to offer odds on the competition, beginning with two matches on Thursday.
Favorites Hold On in Thursday CS:GO Action
100 Thieves (-500) went off as a favorite against Swole Patrol (+375), and lived up to that billing by winning the best-of-three series (16-19, 16-5, 16-13). Team Liquid (-335) also avoided an upset, beating Made in Brazil (+275) by a 16-7, 16-2 margin.
The decision marks the first time that sportsbooks in the United States have been able to offer esports betting on an entire league, rather than an individual match or competition. Nevada has previously allowed wagering on individual tournaments, while New Jersey tested the idea exactly once, during the 2019 League of Legends World Championship final.
Nevada regulators expressly allowed three types of bets: head-to-head, match winners, and futures bets on the overall season winner. The rules put in place also prohibit in-play betting.
The decision comes as sportsbooks search for anything and everything to allow betting on. There are very few physical sporting events still taking place on Earth, with some of the current highlights being sumo wrestling, table tennis, and Belarusian soccer.
That means that even if esports betting doesn’t generate record-breaking handle for the sportsbooks, it could still provide a serious boost, given the paucity of available competitions.
Accessible Esports Betting Options for Bettors
Of potential esports betting options, CS:GO is one that could be relatively easy to follow for bettors. The game is a five-on-five, team-based shooter in which teams compete in a series of matches, upgrading their weapons and equipment between each round. In the ESL Pro League, teams play a total of 30 rounds in each series, with the first to win 16 (with overtime in the case of a 15-15 tie). The teams compete in best-of-three series matches – much like three-set matches in tennis.
Serious fans will bet on any esports competition, of course. But games like League of Legends and Dota 2 are notoriously dense to those who are unfamiliar with them. On the other hand, options like the soccer-like game Rocket League and colorful shooter Overwatch could generate mainstream action. The ESL Pro League streams matches on Twitch and YouTube, as do high-level competitions in most other esports games.
However, even the esports world has slowed down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Psyonix cancelled the Rocket League World Championship earlier this month, which was scheduled to take place live in Dallas this April. Both the Overwatch League and the ESL Pro League have moved to online-only formats as well, though the ESL is still hoping to finish up its current CS:GO season in a closed studio in Europe.