Can eSports Betting be considered a Real Sport?

eSports BettingIn the digital wagering world, eSports betting has grown immensely over the last few years. In 2014, the industry recorded over 350,000 eSports bets, making it the 8th most popular sport wagered on that year. But there’s one lingering question that many still can’t get past, and that’s whether eSports can really be considered a sport.

It’s been argued time and again that there’s no athleticism involved. By definition, shouldn’t a sport be an athletic competition of some type? Football, baseball, sprinting, swimming, BMX biking, snowboarding – there’s no question that these are sporting events. But video games?

What are eSports?

Electronic sports, or eSports, are competitions between video gamers. There are usually 5 players on each team, all participating in a popular MMO (mass multiplayer online) PC or console game. They are most commonly shoot’em ups like League of Legends, although individuals can also compete in head-to-head games like Madden NFL, or Mario Kart.

These are the types of games today’s Millennials grew up on. Every day after school, they sat in front of a TV, turned on a game and played for hours. As anyone who’s been betting on eSports in the last few years knows, many of them got quite good at it!

Today there are collegiate and professional leagues, with regional tournaments in most major countries. Collegiate leagues play for scholarships, while professional leagues play for cash.

What is eSports Betting?

Like any other form of sports wagering, eSports betting takes place when individuals place a bet on which person or team will win a eSports competition. Also akin to traditional sports betting, there may be side wagers available, such as which player will score the most points on a particular team, or maybe an Over/Under on how many Kills there will be in a DOTA2 match.

Is It Really a Sport?

How to answer that question… I suppose it really depends on your perception of what a sport is. Or, perhaps more appropriately, who’s definition of sport you refer to.

According to the Meriam Webster Dictionary, sport is merely defined as:

     To amuse oneself

There’s no mention of athleticism, physical activity or even skill. Based on that, video games definitely qualify as a sport. However, MB considers sport to be a verb only, not a noun, so most wouldn’t deem this definition appropriate for the general meaning of sport.

If we turn to the Oxford Dictionary, sport (as a noun) is defined as:

     An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

Ah-ha! By this definition, it would seem eSports do not qualify as real sports, due to the necessary involvement of “physical exertion”. All other factors are present. Skill, individual or team play and entertainment; but saying it takes physical exertion to mash buttons with thumbs and fingers is a stretch.

But wait – there’s more to it. According to Oxford, the word sport arrived in Late Middle English, as a shortening of the original term disport. Its original meaning (upon shortening) was:

     pastime, entertainment

So, by modern day definitions, Oxford says no, but originally, eSports would have been considered a sport.

Last but not least, we’ll look at Dictionary.com, one of the leading online sources for word definitions. Here, the term sports (noun) is defined as:

     An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.

Note the “or” here. A Sport requires “skill or physical prowess”. However, this could be interrupted in two ways. We could say the skill factor makes eSports betting a true form of sports betting, or we could say (based on the start of the definition) that it’s not an “athletic…skill”, therefore not a genuine sports.

If Poker is a Sport, eSports is a Sport

For me, I believe that eSports can and should be defined as a real sport. I understand the athletic argument, but I also know that a multitude of jurisdictions have scripted legal definitions for poker in which it’s been termed a skill-based sport.

If sitting around a table with other people, using advanced mental and psychological skills to outwit an opponent (with or without a better hand) can be considered a sport, there’s no reason playing video games competitively shouldn’t be seen in the same light.

It’s not just about mashing buttons, but using precision aiming and pressing each button at the right moment. To put it in perspective, if sitting in a blind in a tree for hours and shooting at animals (hunting) is a sport, and if skeet shooting at flying discs is a sports, using a video game controller to shoot should also be a sport.

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