The purists among us mock when 'e-sports' is mentioned. "It's just not sports," they say, though these strong feelings gradually become more conflict, longer-lived sports remain from stadiums and screens. However, a group of sports fans have quickly driven their prejudice to sports played on game consoles: the players.
"It's been really interesting how quickly people have warmed to e-sports," Warren Tannous, founder and CEO of World Sports Betting (WSB), told Sport24.
"There has been a significant up-tick in interest. We can say with certainty that an English Premier League punter will inevitably start betting on a FIFA e-football game or even a tournament. This is definitely the trend we have seen . "
The sports betting industry has not been spared the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is obvious given its relative dependence on live matches.
However, companies have also avoided meeting the full wrath of the virus due to other events that remain stably intact: e-sports and virtual gaming.
"It's been tough and challenging," Tannous admitted.
"We have had to make some adjustments to the stress of the market, but it has allowed us to market some nice additions."
Braamfontein-based BetXchange also recently lauded its e-sports offering, especially highlighting the growing popularity of electronic football leagues.
Punters can bet on no less than six different products.
"The matches are fast and action packed and lasts 12 minutes per game and six minutes each half, although some league's fighting times are different, as well as the rules per league. The teams consist of a number of players, including professional football players and e-sportsmen to represent the teams, ”the company said in a statement.
Tannous added that there was also an increase in interest in live casino-based games such as roulette and poker.
For those still asking for actual people performing actions on the field, the WSB is carefully examining "simulated sports" as a value-added offer, though Tannous admitted there were still discussions with the Gauteng Gambling Board on legality issues.
"What it basically entails is that we take a previous game - say a Merseyside or Manchester derby - and allow it to bet. However, players may not know that year until it is shown," Tannous said.
"We're trying to get this back."
The commercial considerations of the WSB are not limited to simply adapting their core business model.
It has left a decent footprint in the South African sports sponsorship market, especially as the Cape Cobras' name sponsor, an associate sponsor of the Lions and EFC's official odds partner.
But Covid-19 has demanded robust conversations about some of these associations.