The impact of delay on esports betting

Information is key in betting. Possessing the right information can give punters a significant advantage over sportsbooks, even over those found in a list of the best bookmakers in the UK. But there is more to it. Information is key in sports overall. Having the right information at the right time can give a football team an edge, for example, and can result in a sequential manner in the team’s win in the end. Imagine a football team obtaining in real time a snapshot of what the other team is up to or sneak peeking at the other team’s strategy and adjusting its own strategy, ensuring eventually that it is ready to compete in the most effective way. Well, this is obviously impossible in the traditional sports, but it could be the case in esports if it weren’t for latency.

Esports: latency and delay

With esports, viewers are watching a game with a delay. The inherent delay, which is called latency, is effectively managed by operators and it has been minimized to as low as 10 seconds. In fact, latency can’t be eradicated completely, because it always requires even a split of second for a server to display a command given by a player, let’s say. So, keeping it as low as possible is important for the viewers’ experience.

But what happens with punters? Punters are confronted with another problem when it comes to esports. This problem is delay, which is intentionally ‘built-in’ the game streaming in order to ensure fair game practices and prevent players from cheating or obtaining an unfair advantage by having real-time feed about the opponents’ actions. In esports, the delay works against unfair competition and for sports game integrity, particularly as it prevents each team from taking a sneak peek at its rivals. If there was no delay, then the players would be able to have a picture of what their opponents are doing or what they are up to and this would simply make the entire esports experience collapse. So, the delay makes sure that there is a level of integrity and a level of fairness.

Delay and esports betting experience

For punters, however, the delay in streaming interferes with their betting experience. Given that delay can be about minutes -and not about seconds, you can only imagine how this can impact the punters’ engagement, excitement or even willingness to place bets in esports.

Bookmakers obtain their game feed directly from game servers, which means that they acquire information in almost real time and with no delay. Delay is built in the streaming process and so, it only concerns viewers. With real time data, bookmakers get to set their odds, having a significant advantage over their customers as part of being ahead in time. And punters are eventually called to place bets with odds that do not reflect the real time progress of the game. So, there is a disparity between viewership experience and betting experience.

The problem is mainly for in-play betting, which becomes largely asynchronous and it can lead to misplaced bets and losses. Punters who want to place their bets while viewing the game stream, end up being offered odds that are highly inaccurate and inconsistent with what actually happens in the game, simply because they watch the delayed stream. So, their betting experience is hampered and this can adversely impact their interest and enthusiasm in betting on esports.

Evidence suggests that the esports that have the longest delay in game streams generally accumulate the least interest on the part of punters – the greater the delay, the less the volume of bets placed on events.

The same mechanism that is used to ensure fair game practices, to prevent unfair advantages and to minimize the possibilities of cheating and sneak peeking, is what accounts for the major factor that puts at risk the experience of punters in esports. Delay in stream is necessary for the game integrity, but it can jeopardize betting by weakening the punters’ experience. In practice, bookmakers, in their vast majority at least, are trying to balance things out by increasing the consistency of their odds with the game streams, but there are always some bookies that act opportunistically and build on their unfair advantage given by their faster data feed from esports’ servers.


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