Savak Limbuwala has 14 years of iGaming industry experience, specializing in marketing and operations. He has worked in the iGaming industry for various sports betting markets in the UK, Europe, and Asia. Currently, he is the Chief Operating Officer at Winners.Bet.
Tell us about the esports betting space and maybe how it’s changed over the past few years.
Some might be surprised to hear that the first esports bet was placed around 10 years ago and that esports betting has been steadily growing in the background of the wider sports betting world ever since. However, in recent years with the popularity of professional esports exploding around the world (a global audience of 454 million in 2019), many industries, not just sports betting, have been quick to try and leverage that success.
In 2019, investment in the esports ecosystem as a whole was reported to be a staggering $4.5 billion! With improvements in technology, along with data analytics and modelling, bookies have been able to create a wider range of betting markets and a more engaging user experience. Couple this with easy access to 24/7, year-round professional esports events, not to mention a diverse, maturing audience and its clear to see that esports is well set to be ‘the next big thing’ in the sports betting sector.
How big is the esports betting market? Is it really that much bigger than the esports market itself, and should we treat it as a separate thing outside of esports?
It really depends on what measure you are using, but in a word, no. The esports betting market is still relatively small in terms of active bettors, turnover and revenue, when compared to esports itself. But it is projected to double by 2022 or perhaps quicker, due to the current climate. There’s still only a small percentage of esports fans or regular sports bettors that are regularly betting on their favourite esports titles.
Sports betting has always strived to be seen as an extra layer of entertainment that compliments and enhances a fans experience & engagement with traditional sports. Unfortunately, sports and betting still sit on opposite sides of the same pitch, rather than being on the same team. But I believe esports and esports betting have an even greater opportunity to develop and grow together because of the parallels that exist between the two.
Not to mention the fact that the majority of esports enthusiasts have grown up online, with social media and so are much more comfortable to purchase online, than the traditional sports audience was when online sports betting first began.
Do you feel Winners.Bet can be the brand to really make an impact here, and if so, why?
I have no doubt that Winners.bet will make a large and lasting impact on the esports betting sector. We make up one part of the WIN group that currently operates the esports portal WIN.gg, the Winners League CS:GO tournament and winners.net, an esports bookmaker review portal. Which is planned for launch at the end of Q2.
This company is built and run by passionate experts, in their fields, who are also esports fans and players themselves. This gives our business that same sense of community and family that you see and feel in esports itself. On top of this we are focused on delivering what I like to call ‘user first’ innovative products and services, which have the primary aim of making a seamless and intuitive betting experience for our community.
You currently offer betting in CS:GO, Dota 2, LoL, Overwatch, and StarCraft 2. Do you plan on increasing the number of games and tournaments?
While we currently cover the most popular esports, in terms of betting, one of the top priorities on our product roadmap is to add numerous other esports titles. But, the fact remains that for now CS:GO, Dota 2 and LoL are head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to betting on esports. Naturally, things can change pretty quickly, as we’ve seen with the meteoric rise of Fortnite in the past couple of years, but that hasn’t fully translated across to fans betting on the game yet.
How do you see the potential of blockchain and crypto for the esports betting industry?
All three relatively new sectors have huge potential for growth in the coming years and the natural synergies that exist across the three areas, will inevitably lead to continued collaboration and partnerships between them. The areas that do have the potential to cause some friction between betting and the others, is the industry’s drive toward, regulation, financial transparency and responsible gaming. Until blockchain technology and crypto currencies become more aligned with the established and approved governance & controls of the betting industry, they will be ‘socially distanced’ from the mainstream sector of sports betting.
How do you think the current world situation will affect the industry? Do you see already some effect on your business and in what direction?
Sadly, the devastating effects of the Coronavirus pandemic are going to reverberate throughout history, with every business sector impacted at levels we could not have imagined possible around a month ago. Thankfully, remote working has always been part of the WIN culture. Utilising digital tools such as G-suite, Slack, Weekdone and others, allows us to continue operations without disruption. However, esports is without doubt the best positioned sport to not only survive this crisis, but to thrive and grow despite it.
A lot of top tier live events have been moved online, but as already discussed, esports has been growing massively online in recent years. Now with huge numbers of people confined to their homes for weeks and possibly longer, esports has already seen an uplift in viewers and players around the globe. So, it’s more important than ever to prioritise player safety and protection, through our responsible gaming policy and tools. This in turn will help us build a long term and sustainable business, that our customers can trust.
Tell us something more about your most challenging markets? Are you making different marketing campaigns according to those?
Of course, each market has its own challenges and restrictions that marketers need to be aware of, but that is becoming less of a factor as the industry moves further into the realm of personalisation. Being able to deliver a highly relevant message at just the right time is the difference between retaining or losing a customer. Although esports relates to a whole betting vertical, within it is a very diverse product offering, just like traditional sports. Many football bettors would not bet on tennis or cricket and similar could be said of esports bettors as well. As we are aiming to be a ‘user first’ brand, the personalisation of our marketing activities will be a key component to achieving our goals.
What will be the next BIG thing in the esports industry according to you for 2020?
Being able to accurately predict what the next big thing is going to be in any industry is essentially an impossible task! However, in my opinion we could see similar developments to those we have already seen in traditional sports betting. Which is tremendous growth in betting options, in-play, mobile and player betting markets too. On top of that the rapid improvements in technology such as AR and VR, could really provide the platform for esports betting to jump ahead of traditional sports and deliver a truly immersive, community-based experience. Though, that will likely not be seen until 2021 or beyond.
Give us some tease for the near future, unique for BestBitcoinCasino.com (new partnership, new stakeholders, or something else?)
Despite having just launched our new user interface we are busy working on improvements already and the next upgrade that will really catch people’s attention is a unique, immersive game mode that brings our users one big step closer to the action, for an unparalleled betting experience.
A little question on the side. What is your favourite esports game or maybe just a game in general for your spare time?
I have to admit that being from an older generation my personal experience with gaming started well before esports, as you know it today, was even thought about. So, I grew up with games such as DOOM, Metal Gear Solid and the first editions of FIFA! But now I have two young children getting into gaming, Fortnite is on almost constant loop in our house these days haha.
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