The Rise of Esports and the Fall of Illegal Sports Betting: How They are Related and Why it Matters

By: Elizabeth A. DeConti and Lauren Voke

Florida – January 5, 2021 – Esports are a form of organized competitive sporting events where participants compete by playing a video game facilitated through a gaming console that is controlled in real-time by a human operator. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines an e-sport as “a video game played as a competition for people to watch as entertainment.” An individual or a team compete against others, as in a traditional sporting tournament, for a prize pool or the opportunity to advance to a higher-stakes tournament by playing games such as League of Legends, Fortnite, or Call of Duty Warzone. The esports phenomena combines gaming, big tech, media, pop culture, and subsequently, a lot of lawyers.

COVID-19 canceled many live sporting events in 2020 and subjected the nation to watching reruns of favorite games and tournaments on television.  Fans and participants turned their attention to gameplay, and streaming platforms such as Twitch, Youtube, and social media enjoyed an increase in viewership. Esports gained traction as a “spectator sport” as levels of gameplay became more advanced and more and more people became interested in watching. “Total esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023.” Even when the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) season suspended due to COVID-19, ESPN aired a NBA 2K20 tournament where sixteen NBA-players competed in the esport-tournament for a chance to donate $100,000 to a charity of their choice.

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