Esports experienced significant growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in Southeast Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, and this audience expansion could represent a major opportunity for sports betting operators.

Speaking to the Asia Gaming Brief, Darang Candra, Director of Southeast Asia for Niko Partners, discussed the firm’s recent report into esports in the Southeast Asia region.

A notable development in particular was that regulatory authorities in South Korea and Japan, two major centres for the esports industry, are considering enacting legislation to legalise betting on the sector.

“Southeast Asia in general is a place of growth regarding betting,” he remarked. “We don’t really track it but we know that it’s changing. In Japan especially it is changing and they recently enacted several new laws on betting and esports. It really is time for it to be possessed by the industry. 

“As for India, it is a federal state, so it really depends on the states. Some states allow betting, but other states ban esports betting so it really depends on the local situations.”

Commenting further on developments in Japan and South Korea, he added: “It is still ongoing, there are no laws passed on betting in Korea or Japan in relation to esports, but there are pushes and some moves towards that, but it’s still ongoing. We don’t have a clear boundary and a clear set of rules for betting.”

Going into further detail on the huge uptake in viewership of esports tournaments during COVID-19 lockdowns, Candra explained:“We tracked that more brands had a partnership with esports teams, tournaments and operators throughout 2020 and 2021.

“Esports itself in Southeast Asia boomed because of the pandmeic – it grew to 618 million esports spectators, a 21% increase over 2019, and we expect the partnerships between brands and esports industry players to be the main growing part of the ecosystem as viewership continues to rise.”

When quizzed on whether this growth will continue after the pandemic, he noted that future growth depends heavily on how the industry reacts to the post-pandemic era.

“We have seen the pandemic is not going totally away soon, it will still be lingering in the background over the next few years. According to our prediction, esports viewership will continue to grow although it will not be as strong as during the pandemic, because there will be more in-person live tournaments that are available.

“Because esports became mainstream during the pandemic, we believe viewership will continue to rise, and the inclusion of esports in regional tournaments such as Asian Games, and other regional tournaments across the world, will increase viewership in general. Its also important to know that although traditional sports have their own fans and viewers, esports are targeting different generations for their fans. 

“Younger fans, viewers and bettors will have more experience and more knowledge of the esports scene compared to traditional sports such as horse racing or car racing.”

Source – Asia Gaming Brief YouTube Channel

Asia Gaming Brief: Korea and Japan considering esports betting