Esports-focused betting company Rivalry is wrapping up the year with an inside look into the top games, teams and matches that fans bet on in 2022.
Rivalry is emerging as an industry leader in esports betting. Earlier this year, the company recorded its first ever profitable month — a major achievement in an industry searching for profitability. Similarly, a Barclays study claimed Rivalry was the most engaged esports betting brand globally.
While Rivalry’s data is limited to its own books, its position in the market makes it a valuable glance into industry trends.
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|By Volume||By Average Bet Size|
|1||League of Legends||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive|
|2||Counter-Strike: Global Offensive||League of Legends|
|3||Dota 2||Dota 2|
|5||Mobile Legends: Bang Bang||Mobile Legends: Bang Bang|
League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 lead the way for esports betting on Rivalry. Together, the three titles accounted for approximately 90% of all esports betting on the platform. Given that esports accounts for 90% of Rivalry’s sports book handle, these three titles account for about 80% of the sportsbook.
These titles have mature esports scenes, both in how organized the competition is and the audience itself. As relatively older titles, League of Legends, CS:GO and Dota 2 players are more likely to be at an age where they can bet.
Notably, League of Legends drove more individual bets, but CS:GO fans bet more per wager on average.
Valorant made the most gains in 2022. The volume of bets increased 264% from 2021. Riot is investing more resources into Valorant esports. This increased betting activity shows that the most active viewers are responding well to Riot’s efforts. The title is also similar in structure to CS:GO, so Valorant benefits from CS:GO’s established betting culture.
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was also a breakout star of the year. Rivalry only added betting on mobile titles in March. Naturally, ML:BB is the first mobile title to break into Rivalry’s top five. The mobile MOBA is one of the most watched esports in the world, but it is relatively localized to Southeast Asia. Most of the game’s betting activity came from SEA, but this was enough to surpass key titles like StarCraft 2.
Top five mobile games by betting volume:
- 1. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
- 2. League of Legends: Wild Rift
- 3. Honor of Kings
- 4. Call of Duty: Mobile
- 5. Free Fire
While Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is at the top of the mobile charts, it’s joined by two direct competitors. League of Legends: Wild Rift is the mobile counterpart to PC League of Legends while Honor of Kings is localized to China. ML:BB is published by Moonton, a subsidary of Bytedance, while Wild Rift and HoK are published by Tencent.
With mobile esports growing in popularity, betting will be a good proxy to measure which titles are getting the most attention from hardcore fans.
Most wagered-on esports titles in 2022 by region
- Australia: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Canada: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- Latin America: League of Legends
- Southeast Asia: Dota 2
- Rest of World: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Outside of Southeast Asia and Latin America, CS:GO reigns supreme. Most of the bets were focused on ESL’s Pro League and WePlay’s Academy League.
In Latin America, League of Legends dominated betting — over 60% of the regions esports bets were placed on Riot’s MOBA. China’s LPL, Brazil’s CBLoL and Korea’s LCK were the top three most bet on leagues respectively, both in Latin America and globally. This is likely due to the high level of play in China and Korea. Brazilian fans are also highly engaged which explains why its regional league is so popular for betting.
Top matches and teams
Most bet on esports teams globally:
- Team Liquid
- RED Canids
It’s no secret that Brazil loves esports; betting data shows just how passionate they are. Three of the country’s top teams — FURIA, LOUD and RED Canids — are in top five most bet on teams globally. In particular, FURIA’s win at IEM Rio in front of a home crowd undoubtedly drove the team to the top of the chart.
While Team Liquid didn’t win a major championship this year, the organization’s participation in several esports, including Valorant, Dota 2, CS:GO and League of Legends, put them solidly at No. 2.
In contrast, T1 is less active in other esports. While they do have Valorant and Overwatch contenders teams plus a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player, their League of Legends team carried them to the top.
Most wagered-on esports matches globally
- League of Legends World Championship: T1 vs DRX
- Dota 2 The International: Tundra Esports vs Team Secret
- League of Legends World Championship: Gen.G vs DWG KIA
- Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends: FURIA vs paiN Gaming
- League of Legends World Championship: DRX vs Edward Gaming
Unsurprisingly, international competitions dominate the most popular matches. The League of Legends World Championship featured three of the most bet on matches. The final bout between T1 and DRX took the top spot, likely boosting T1 to the No. 5 most bet on team. The close quarter final matches featuring Gen.G vs DAMWON Gaming and DRX vs Edward Gaming were also among the top 5, showing the importance of close matches.
Interestingly, the match between FURIA and paiN Gaming was the first match of the winner’s bracket in the first split of the season. While the match was important, the main reason it drew so much attention was the rivalry between the two teams and their prominence in Brazilian esports.
The final match of Dota 2’s The International was the only non-League of Legends match to make the cut. While TI was a 3-0 blow out, Dota 2 fans still were highly engaged with the match
What about traditional sports?
Most popular sports among esports bettors
- American Football
While 90% of Rivalry’s sportsbook handle comes from esports, the company also takes bets on traditional sports. According to Rivalry, over 50% of people who bet on esports in 2022 also placed bets on traditional sports.
Basketball is the clear leader followed by football/soccer and American football. With football’s global popularity, it’s unsurprising to see it make the list. However, it’s interesting to see that Rivalry’s younger esports-skewed audience prefers basketball to football.
Betting trends in 2023
Looking forward, Rivalry is looking to expand its footprint in mobile games and Valorant. The growth of these two sectors are clear in the dataset. While mobile titles are more localized to SEA, their growth internationally can be accelerated by introducing them to the highly engaged betting audience. Similarly, if Riot’s goal is to compete with CS:GO for viewers, appealing to CS:GO’s betting culture is a must.
However, a more seismic shift is happening in betting. In a recent joint report from Nuvei, Paypal and Esports Insider*, 77% of esports companies (teams, tournament operators and talent agencies) said betting was at least moderately important to the industry even if they were not directly engaged in betting. In the search for profits, regulated betting can be part of the solution.
This growth can be seen in the NFL, MLB and NBA who have allowed betting sponsorships since its legalization in 2018. These leagues have reaped the benefits of regulated gambling in increased viewership, engagement, sponsorship revenue and higher team valuations.
In an era where engagement is the gold standard — especially with free-to-play dominating the market — betting might be a valuable tool for publishers. In one study, 69% of Millennial NFL bettors watched more sports than usual when placing a wager on a game. While this study didn’t focus on esports, the same principal applies.
“Where we see momentum in betting activity, it often translates into enhanced economics and overall viewership growth for that esport,” confirmed Steven Salz, Rivalry’s cofounder and CEO.
We can see early signs of companies embracing betting. Twitch allows fans in certain markets to wager channel points — which are earned by watching — to predict the outcome of matches.
Rivalry expects more openness to gambling from publishers in 2023.
*Note: Prior to joining GamesBeat, the author of this article was part of the team that conducted this study.