With much less fanfare, U.S.-based bettors in certain areas now have the ability to engage in what could be considered a “dress rehearsal” for potential single-game wagering on actual sporting events. Virtual sports betting is already a complementary product alongside horse racing and conventional sports betting in both the United Kingdom and Italy. Now it is live in New Jersey on PlaySugarHouse.com.
Growing presence in New Jersey, Nevada
Patrons can currently wager on Inspired Gaming’s virtual sports contests through either SugarHouse Casino’s website or its mobile application. Additional New Jersey gaming establishments, namely Golden Nugget, Resorts, and Betfair, should be rolling out their virtual sports offerings soon too.
Virtual soccer and horse racing competitions are currently live. Dog racing, motor racing, motorbike racing, and American football are reportedly on the horizon.
William Hill US broke the ice for virtual sports in the U.S. The company added virtual horse racing to two of its Nevada sportsbooks back in July 2016. After a successful trial, that number of books offering virtual sports is up to nine.
First cousin to conventional sports betting?
Virtual sports wagering manages to straddle the line of legality seamlessly. Bets are not being placed on real-world sporting events. Instead, participants wager on digital sporting events that unfold in front of them in a matter of minutes. The contests mimic the rules of gameplay of that particular sport, but they do not utilize actual team or player names.
Virtual sports matches are significantly condensed versions of an actual sporting event. Thus, they are completed within minutes, providing near-instant results and payouts.
Besides the fact that they are centered on digital rather than real-world matchups, virtual sports betting differs from conventional sports betting in other ways.
The most significant is the path to outcome. An actual sporting event’s final result is determined by the collective actions of the players. Meanwhile, a virtual sports match outcome is generated by a randomized computer algorithm.
Skill-based components present
The seemingly scattershot nature of that method belies the fact that like in conventional sports betting, there are data points to consider before placing a virtual sports wager. Virtual sports betting platforms provide odds, along with fictitious team and player profiles and background.
However, unlike wagers that are based on specifically timed, real-world sports contests, bettors can get in on the action with virtual sports around-the-clock on any day of the year.
Additionally, even though a randomized computer algorithm determines winners and losers in a virtual sports contest, those wagering on the games are free from having to factor in equally unpredictable factors, such as in-game injuries and weather.
Synergy with similar, growing industries
The nature and format of virtual sports betting dovetails almost seamlessly with the progressively increasing interest in digitally-based competitive activities.
The meteoric rise of eSports is certainly tangible evidence of such. After all, it is an industry estimated to generate $696 million in revenue in 2017. With its cutting-edge, vivid graphics, virtual sports are strikingly similar to the video games that drive the burgeoning eSports market.
To a lesser extent, historical racing also fits the bill, although it targets a completely different audience than eSports. Historical racing, also known as instant racing, consists of wagers on horse races that have already occurred. The dates and locations of the races, as well as the identity of the jockeys and horses, are not available until after betting closes.
An actual recording or digital representation of the race plays on the instant racing terminal, as it does in virtual sports. Kentucky, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Oregon all offer legalized historical racing. New Jersey is also interested in adding it to their existing tracks.
Future expansion and popularity possible, but unclear
The future expansion of virtual sports betting remains a decidedly murky issue. On the one hand, virtual betting does not violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)
However, the aforementioned Supreme Court case is drawing national attention. Conventional sports betting naturally appears to have infinitely more financial upside than its virtual counterpart ever could.
Conversely, even if New Jersey is successful in its quest, certain states are likely to be slow to warm up to the possible implementation of the activity.
In such instances, virtual sports betting could establish a foothold as a complementary product. With a digital format that mimics the type of entertainment so many millennials already consume, it certainly has potential to bridge the gap to sports betting acceptance.