Asian players drive shift in content demand

Asian sports books are adding more content in response to demand from local gamers, with betting on smaller, local sports now growing at a faster pace than punting on the European big leagues, experts say.

“Football is the predominant factor in Asia. I would say 95 percent, if not more is football alone and that is both for cash and credit,” says Jesper Jensen, director iGaming Asia, who says a conservative estimate for the amount of credit extended per week in Asia is US$10 billion to $50 billion.

However, the Asian punter is looking for more betting opportunities than just on the major soccer leagues. Thomas Klingebiel, commercial director, Asia Betgenius explains: “Most operators see 10 percent of betting from the top divisions in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England. The other 90 percent of turnover is from other, less prominent football leagues. So while the top leagues and countries make up around 5,000 events annually, we are seeing strong appetite in the market for more content – with around an additional 75,000 events available annually.”

Some examples are the Chinese Super League and the Indonesian Leagues. “This is a trend that you find with other sports as well, and the appetite for other sports outside of football is definitely growing in Asia,” adds Klingebiel.

The number two sport in terms of turnover is basketball, which is dominated by the National Basketball Association. “There is huge demand for basketball in other countries around the world,” says Klingebiel. “NBA is the second most important league after the English Premier League when it comes to betting in Asia as it attracts more attention than Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A football leagues. But while the NBA offers between 1000-2000 matches per year, it has a significant off season. This has seen a trend of growing desire for more basketball content – with operators wanting a 24-hour, 365-day proposition to offer to clients. To meet that need we are offering trading on an additional 25,000-30,000 basketball matches per year, with lots of exclusive content available to our partners.”

In The Philippines, basketball is the number one sport, while in China it is on a par with football, attracting a lot of interest in local matches.

“Across Asia, tennis is something that has been holding a pretty good position for the last three years,” continues Klingebiel. “Tennis is popular as it has huge in-game betting opportunities. It is also played around the world in different time zones. There is not the same focus on the top tier of competitions, with a great deal of interest in challenger events which take place all year round. Some golf betting propositions are beginning to develop but the level of interest is below that of badminton and volleyball. Badminton is quite popular in Asia and operators offer a significant range of game while Volleyball is particularly popular when there are local teams playing.”

Another area to watch is the eSports industry, which some say may end up giving some traditional sports a run for their money when it comes to viewership and player numbers. “ESports is moving real fast and will overtake the NBA in terms of viewership and worldwide players, tournaments, branding, and offerings,” says John English, partner at Global Market Advisors and managing director of Sports Betting & Technology. “There are so many games but the popular ones we play here in the US: League of Legends, Dota 2, Fortnite, Call of Duty, Players Unknown Battleground, and even sporting titles like Madden Football, are growing at breakneck speed in popularity in Japan, China and throughout Asia.”

The entire eSports industry is expected to grow over the coming years with worldwide revenues projected to reach $1.07 billion in 2019. In 2017, the eSport market revenue in Asia was estimated at $406 million, compared with $392 million in North America, $298 million in Europe and $29 million for the rest of the world, according to figures from Statista, The Statistics Portal.

“The eSports phenomenon has gained in popularity in the Asian market for sure,” continues English. “It is a given just as it is in the U.S and around the world. It is catching the attention of all the bookmakers. The social sports and skill games games do very well online on game streaming sites like twitch, gaming consoles, as well as television and mobile phones. Of course, at the moment Soccer and the NBA is where the audience currently resides but that is rapidly changing,” he adds.

ESports is also no longer just a form of entertainment, it is becoming a profession for many players. Gamers around the world are enticed to compete in numerous tournaments with the promise of a sizeable profit. In 2015, the combined annual eSports prize pools worldwide amounted to $74.8 million, the Statista figures show. However, the data shows that ticket sales and prize pools account for only a fraction of the eSports market revenue. The majority of the global revenue the industry generates comes from sponsorships and advertising. It is estimated that in 2020, brands will spend approximately $1.2 billion on eSports sponsorships and advertising, up from the $517 million that was projected for 2017.

“From the in-game perspective, those that book eSports have a large opportunity to capitalise on the plethora of game outcomes during a single match. There are some concerns that still need to be ironed out, mostly regulatory issues of match fixing, doping and how to unify and control the massive amount of games and teams being created. Traditional sports have enjoyed a long and storied history and they are not going anywhere anytime soon, however, innovations in game development, mobile technology and speed, virtual reality, augmented reality and blockchain technology are changing the course of the games we play, what we view and what we wager on.”