The time is now. With more traditional sports stuck on hiatus, esports are emerging from every corner to fill the void.
On Tuesday, the NBA announced a 16-player NBA 2K20 video game tournament that will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 starting on Friday. Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Devin Booker and others will compete for $100,000 to donate in support of coronavirus relief efforts.
Jason Argent, 2K senior vice president of sports strategy and licensing, said:
“Entertainment, especially sports, has the ability to bring communities together, including athletes, fans and families. We hope that everyone will enjoy the tournament.”
Esports betting is still waiting for the green light in PA
Although some in Pennsylvania would love to wager on the upcoming 2K20 tournament, esports betting has not yet been authorized in the Keystone State.
As noted in a recent article on PlayPennsylvania, PA gaming laws lie in a gray area that neither expressly allows nor forbid esports gambling. But the stipulation of wagering allowed only on sporting event outcomes makes it doubtful for now.
As Doug Harbach, of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), said, “Sports wagering in PA is defined as ‘wagering on the outcome of an athletic event or the statistical performance of an athlete within an event (i.e., a game or a match).’”
Without official authorization, PA sportsbooks have yet to offer them as a betting option.
Nevada and New Jersey lead the way
Both Nevada and New Jersey have previously taken bets on esports as well. New Jersey tried esports wagering last year with a League of Legends tournament held in Paris.
NJ appears to be gaining traction for betting approval and will likely follow in Nevada’s footsteps.
In PA, DFS is gateway to esports betting
Thanks to daily fantasy sports, players in Pennsylvania are not completely closed out of the craze. Daily fantasy games (that operate under different guidelines than traditional sports betting) are relying heavily on esports while the more traditional sports are suspended.
DraftKings has daily NFL contests posted for Madden video game streams and simulated NBA games. There are also contests available that are based on less familiar games like Rocket League, CS:GO and League of Legends. Some of them are free to enter, giving players a chance to test out esports competition without risk.
Over at FanDuel, the offerings are largely similar, with a number of sports video game streams and simulation contests available. FanDuel’s creativity also extends to television, where there are free contests posted for reality shows like Survivor.
And on Saturday, FanDuel is offering a free Wrestlemania contest, which could be the closest thing we have to real sports for a while.
Esports should continue to grow in popularity, acceptance
As the embargo on traditional sports continues, you can expect a related rise in simulated sports and games.
According to ESPN, NASCAR‘s televised iRacing contest last Sunday became the most-watched esports event ever. More than 900,000 viewers tuned in to the broadcast on FS1.
IndyCar has also decided to hold virtual races, starting with a six-week series that launched last Saturday.
More states likely to follow Nevada
There will likely be more opportunities to bet on esports in the near future. Colorado, Tennessee and West Virginia have laws that allow for betting on esports, but the states’ sportsbooks aren’t up and running or just haven’t offered it yet.
There’s also a push underway in a number of other states, including Pennsylvania, to get this type of betting approved.
“Once the gaming control board in PA is comfortable with offering esports wagering within the state’s legal sports betting environment, I am sure they will move forward,” Bill Thomas, director of the Pennsylvania Esports Coalition, previously told PlayPA.
But don’t expect formal legislation right now
With nearly all branches of the government tied up in the coronavirus response, the legislative growth of esports is likely stalled for the foreseeable future. Regarding esports betting in PA, Thomas noted, “I don’t believe that is on their agenda in the near future.”
But in the meantime, these types of simulated sports and video game contests will be attracting more eyeballs, more interest and more attention.
The world is starving for sports, but there’s not much on the menu.
So esports is in a perfect spot.
The time is now.