Gaming in Southeast Asia even covers betting on fish, bull and cock fighting. SiGMA News shares an insight as part of a series into what drives the sector in Thailand where esports is on the rise with huge investment being made in the sector. The impact has been exponential growth in the gaming market, a industry segment that generates significant revenue in the region. Tencent published a report predicting esports revenue would top US $72.5 million next year, representing a CAGR of over 20 percent. If realised, this would be remarkable as it is almost twice the global rate of 11 percent. Esports viewers on streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube are also anticipated to increase, spurring more significant investment in the region’s gaming industry.
Esports ranking 16th globally
Esports is officially recognised as a professional sport in Thailand. Players and organisations are supported by the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) and the Thailand E-Sports Federation (TESF), running regular competitions, seminars and workshops. The country has one of the oldest eSports organisations known as ‘’Made in Thailand’’ (MiTH). It was founded in 2007 and has fielded teams in Dota2, CSGO, Point Blank, Heroes of Newerth, and Starcraft II.
The Thai Government, aware of the potential of esports has collaborated with TESF on several projects that have trained employees to understand esports better and assist them in organising more competitions. Government involvement could help Thailand become a prime destination for groups like ESL and the Professional Gamers League (PGL) to host their events. SAT and the Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports sponsor Esports Electronic Sports League (ESL) events for Dota 2 and ESL National Tournament events. Esports revenue in Thailand is projected to reach US $6.7m in 2023 and to grow by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for 2023-2027 by 11.9 percent. This results in a projected market volume of US $10.6 million by 2027. The market’s largest segment is Sponsorship Advertising with a market volume of US $2 million in 2023.
The number of esports users in Thailand is expected to grow to 8.25 million active players by 2027 and the average revenue per user (ARPU) is expected to increase to US $1.04. Thailand ranks 16th globally in the esports league tables, with 1,898 Thai esports players winning US $22.2 million across 1,254 tournaments. The highest awarding game was Arena of Valor, with US $ 5.3 million. Anucha is the highest-earning Thai player winning just under US $1 million overall from playing in Dota 2 tournaments.
Thai gamers are typically younger, with an average age of 18 to 25. They also have more disposable income to spend on esports. Two-thirds bet on esports exclusively and three-quarters want to bet on multiple esports titles and have a preference towards participating in interactive esports events. Popular bets are on Call of Duty, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant, Warcraft III, League of Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), and Rocket League.
Due to the ease of access to offshore sites, the Thai Government is exploring how to generate taxes and provide regulated and safer ways to bet.
Competitions like fantasy league football and cyber sports such as hockey, cricket and golf also attract bettors and there is a rationale to encourage operators to collaborate with Government to regulate channels for esports fans.
Fish, cock and bullfighting
In Thailand the number of football bets at 3.5 million was lower per capita than other countries in the region but accounted for the highest level of customer spend at over $ 5 billion in stakes. Online gambling has a low uptake, with estimates of people saying that they gamble online varying between 2 and 4 percent. The most popular games are baccarat with a participation of 45 percent of players, while 28 percent play other card games online and 20 percent play online slots. Perhaps due to the ban in addition to the need to circumvent this through Tor Browser or a VPN, only 16.7 percent said they bet on sports.
Two of the most popular “sports” bets in Thailand are cock and bullfighting, with numerous stadiums each holding up to 1000 spectators. Bizarrely, fish fighting is also enjoyed. Fish fighting, known as “Bettas“, has its own gaming licence and spectators watch male fish (which are territorial) fight to the death.
In February this year Thailand’s Ministry of the Interior instructed local governing bodies to lift the bank on animal competitions which include bull, cock and fish fighting after they were stopped as a result of Covid-19. The competitions are intended to promote local heritage and provide communities with “an honest way to generate revenues”. The district chief officer or an assistant district officer in each locality is authorised to exercise discretion in granting permits for the holding of bull, cock or fish fights, in line with local traditions or conditions. Authorities are requested to use their discretion and supervise the competitions with a view to prevent torture to animals during the fights.
Animal fighting with betting is allowed once a week with special allowances for extra fights made for special occasions and during fundraising events for charity. Competitions are prohibited during Buddhist religious days. Attending the competitions and betting require a minimum age of 18. The consumption of alcohol is banned during the events. Horserace betting is permitted for charitable fundraisers on days that do not fall on a public holiday.
Regulated safe betting is considered
Uplatform offers the most comprehensive sportsbook in the region, with over 200 sports, including major Asian championships and leagues. Basketball, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Muay Thai are also popular in the region.
Despite being illegal, online gambling in Thailand has been increasing, with bizarrely badminton being one of the most popular sports for bettors. Offshore sites accept Thai customers and process deposits and withdrawals in local currency.
Competitions like fantasy league football and cyber sports such as hockey, cricket and golf also attract bettors and there is a rationale to encourage operators to collaborate with Government to regulate channels for esports fans