ELEAGUE Betting Handle Exceeds Six Million Skins, Volumes Plateau After Valve Crackdown

Written By Will Green on August 3, 2016

[toc]After more than two months, over 100 matches, a roster scandal, and a skin betting crackdown, the first season of Turner / WME-IMG’s ELEAGUE is in the books.

Here’s a look back at the $1.4 million prize pool Counter-Strike: Global Offensive season by the numbers, and what viewers should expect next from the esports organizer.

Betting handles peak, then tail off

Skin betting volume on EL matches got off to a fast start on CSGOLounge but instead of continuing its upward trajectory as competition worked its way toward the finals—a common progression for esports tournaments—handles stalled over the season’s final three weeks.

Bettors placed a total of 6.5 million skins over EL’s 103 matches during season one, resulting in an average handle of 62,790 skins per match.

Using an average skin value multiplier of $9.75, the total real-money handle for the entirely of EL’s matches calculates to $63 million.

The six group stage weeks took in approximately 57,000 skins per match on Lounge. Group finals matches took in an average of more than double that figure, illustrating the proportional relationship between betting volumes and importance of matches.

[geoip2 region=’ROW’][show-table name=betway][/geoip2]

The tournament’s six last chance qualifier matches, in which eight teams fought for two remaining spots in the quarterfinals, saw a jump in betting activity. Those matches had an average handle of approximately 98,000 skins per match on Lounge.

The quarterfinal matches saw a modest bump, averaging around 109,000 skins wagered per match.

This past weekend’s semifinals and championship matches, however, took in roughly the same betting volume of skins—an average of 110,000 per match. In fact, the top five most heavily bet matches throughout EL took place before the semifinal round.

MonthTotal HandleTotal Revenue/HoldHold %Story
January 2018$418.6 million$25.1 million6.0%Legal Sports Report
February 2018$411.7 million$10.7 million2.6%Legal Sports Report
March 2018$522 million$34.2 million6.6%Legal Sports Report
April 2018$316 million$16.3 million5.2%Legal Sports Report
May 2018 $315.5 million$20.5 million6.5%Legal Sports Report
June 2018$286.5 million$20.2 million7.1%Legal Sports Report
July 2018$244.6 million$4 million1.6%Legal Sports Report
August 2018$247.6 million$12.6 million5.1%Legal Sports Report
September 2018$571 million$56.3 million9.9%Legal Sports Report
October 2018$528 million$29.5 million5.6%Legal Sports Report
November 2018$581 million$27 million4.7%Legal Sports Report
December 2018$544 million$44 million7.9%Legal Sports Report
January 2019$497.5 million$14.6 million2.9%Legal Sports Report
February 2019$458.6 million$35.8 million7.8%Legal Sports Report
March 2019$596.8 million$32.5 million5.5%Legal Sports Report
April 2019$328.1 million$21.7 million6.6%Legal Sports Report
May 2019$317.4 million$11.3 million3.6%Legal Sports Report
June 2019$322.1 million$16.6 million5.2%Legal Sports Report
July 2019$235 million$10.5 million4.5%Legal Sports Report
August 2019$287.8 million$18.7 million6.5%Legal Sports Report
September 2019$546.4 million$52.1 million7.4%Legal Sports Report
October 2019$543.6 million$47.9 million8.8%Legal Sports Report
November 2019$614.1 million$31.0 million5.1%Legal Sports Report
December 2019$571.2 million$26.3 million4.0%Legal Sports Report
January 2020$502.5 million$20.2 million6.1%Legal Sports Report

This contrasts with the betting handles from shorter major CS:GO tournaments this year, such as Cologne and Columbus, which grew steadily up until, and through, the semifinal and final matches. 

The drop in the growth of skin betting could have been directly correlated to a series of events occurring between the last chance qualifiers and the semifinals.

Game maker Valve Corporation issued a cease and desist letter on July 19 naming 23 skin gambling sites, including Lounge, ordering them to stop using its Steam API to facilitate commercial gambling purposes within 10 days.

Lounge continued to offer its betting functionality for at least 12 days after the letter was sent, which allowed for skin betting to take place on the semifinals and final.

Lounge, the largest such site in the world, announced the Monday following those high-profile matches that it was restricting skin betting access to users from at least 20 countries and would attempt to acquire a betting license.

In like a lion, out like a lamb

A furious late betting push raised the handle of Na’Vi and Fnatic’s semifinal to 116,000 skins on Lounge. It would be the largest figure of the tournament’s remaining three matches and perhaps smaller than expected.

For comparison with other recent tournament semifinals, Fnatic’s Cologne semi in July took in 241,000 skins on Lounge, while Na’Vi’s Columbus semi in April took in 288,000 skins on the site.

One factor that could be contributing to smaller than expected handles in the EL’s marquee matches is consumer hesitancy after Valve’s skin gambling crackdown. Another is that the league routinely drew smaller handles than majors in the first place. 

The point remains, however, that on the day by which Valve asked gambling sites to shut down, one of them took in hundreds of thousands of skins in handle on just two matches.

TBS, Twitch viewership shows mixed picture

Similar to the betting handles for EL’s matches not following an expected growth trend, the league’s TBS and Twitch viewership numbers neither consistently grew or consistently shrank.

EL’s final Friday night TBS broadcast, which showed the tournament’s second semifinal between upstart mousesports and eventual champion Virtus.Pro, averaged 295,000 total viewers during a given minute, with 160,000 of those viewers between the ages of 18 and 49.

The Saturday final between Virtus and Fnatic averaged 201,000 total viewers on TBS while up against the weekend slate from the four major sports.

That Saturday number paled a bit compared to average TV viewership for the league’s nine Friday night TBS broadcasts, which often fluctuated between 200,000 and 300,000 average viewers throughout the season.

Oddly, TBS’ Group B finals telecast on June 3 proved to be the high-water mark, netting 386,000 average concurrent viewers. The match that broadcast showed—between G2 Esports and Ninjas In Pyjamas—was also the most bet-on match in the entirely of EL during season one.

This further illustrates the often positive correlation between viewership and skin betting volumes. 

While average concurrent TBS viewers didn’t increase over the course of the season, 18-34 year old viewers did increase, to the tune of 97 percent, demonstrating competitive CS:GO matches’ ability to make inroads with a coveted demographic.

Meanwhile, EL announced strong Twitch viewership for the final, which averaged 103,000 concurrent viewers. Average concurrents throughout the season for Friday night Twitch streams of the league’s higher-profile games often were less than a third of that number.

The semifinals and final were also streamed live on Twitter, for which viewership numbers were not immediately available.

A more detailed examination of EL’s Twitch and TBS viewership figures can be found here.

Season two coming soon

The Daily Dot reported late last month that Turner esports vice president Christina Alejandre confirmed the league would host a second season.

EL season two will again feature CS:GO, but adopt a smaller format and last a shorter amount of time, Alejandre said. Organizers have tentatively slated the second season for this fall, but further details have not been announced.

Alejandre noted that the most difficult aspect of organizing the first season was scheduling, and called CS:GO a crowded space.

EL took week seven of its competition off in order to allow teams to compete at the ESL One Cologne major.

EL’s first season was originally slated to feature 16 teams in four groups, but was later amended to 24 teams across six groups. The extension added several extra weeks’ worth of games on to what became a 10-week event.

In a separate interview, Turner executive vice president Craig Barry appeared to indicate that SK Gaming, whose roster of players used to comprise the erstwhile Luminosity Gaming team, would be included in the season two competition.

SK, which had won EL’s first group stage and qualified for the July quarterfinals, was disqualified from season one early last month by commissioner Min-Sik Ko for making roster changes that did not comply with league rules.

An ‘Overwatch’ appetizer in the interim

EL isn’t sticking entirely to competitive CS:GO with million-dollar prize pools.

Long before season two gets underway, EL will host a tournament featuring Blizzard’s hottest new game, the $300,000 prize pool Overwatch Open.

Opening rounds of the tournament are already underway, and regional playoff qualifier matches will take place Aug. 26-28.

The top eight teams from those North American and European matches will advance to the North American finals (Sept. 25-26) and the European finals (Sept. 28-29) respectively.

The Open’s “Grand Finals” will follow EL’s current Friday night TBS broadcast model, airing Sept. 30 simultaneously on TBS and Twitch.

The tournament’s champion will receive $100,000.

Image credit / ELEAGUE

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