- Most major sports leagues around the world have been shut down, which paves the way for virtual sports betting to see a big spike in popularity.
- Virtual sports are generally limited to computer-generated highlights, but now there is a market for full-length games.
NEW YORK – With the Coronavirus crisis shutting down most global sports and forcing bettors to stay at home, virtual sports betting could see huge growth over the next few months.
Virtual sports betting is exactly what it sounds like: betting on virtual, simulated sports. Usually, virtual sports take the form of one or two-minute-long computer-generated highlight clips between made-up teams.
These simulated matchups are smooth and fast, with fluid animation and commentary that sounds true to life. But rather than being determined by real players, virtual sports are essentially determined by a random number generator.
Sportsbooks looking for answers in the wake of such a huge blow to their revenue stream have recognized the potential value of virtual sports during the crisis.
Virtual Sports Betting Odds
MyBookie, for example, is offering players the option to bet on simulated real-life matchups on both the NFL, via NFL Madden 20, and the NBA, via NBA 2K20. There are five basketball simulations scheduled for Monday and six football simulations.
All these matchups are played at their respective games’ highest difficulty level at full-length quarters to get results that are as lifelike as possible. In other words, they are simulating something close to the experience of watching an actual football or basketball game.
Today’s virtual sports betting odds are:
NFL Madden 20 – March 23, 2020 (all odds set at -115):
- Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets (-2.5)
- Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions (-3.5)
- Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans (-4.5)
- Green Bay Packers (-4.5) vs. Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
- San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens (-1.5)
NBA 2K20 – March 23, 2020 (all odds set at -115):
- Brooklyn Nets (-6.5) vs. Sacramento Kings
- Denver Nuggets vs. LA Lakers (-10.5)
- Washington Wizards vs. Philadelphia 76ers (-8.5)
- Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors (-3.5)
- Atlanta Hawks vs. New Orleans Pelicans (-5.5)
This obviously isn’t a perfect replacement for real sports, but for sports bettors going stir crazy cooped up in their homes with no sports to watch, these simulated matchups offer a decent substitute for March Madness, the NBA, and all the other major sporting events lost to COVID-19.
Virtual Sports As A Business
It is hard to track virtual sports revenue across the entire industry because it is often lumped in with other casino games like slots and video poker rather than being listed as its own separate category. It is possible to infer industry growth by looking at leading virtual sports providers, however.
Inspired Entertainment, a New York-based gambling technology company, saw its net revenue more than double from Q4 2018 to Q4 2019. One of the company’s primary offerings is virtual sports.
Part of this growth was driven by the acquisition of other businesses, but virtual sports saw impressive revenue growth of nearly 16%, increasing from $8.2 million to $9.5 million. Server-based gaming, Inspired’s other main offering, increased by only 11%.
Virtual sports are popular and relatively mainstream in Europe but haven’t enjoyed much success in the United States yet. But Inspired launched its virtual sports partnership with New Jersey’s Bet365 in January, which could provide a huge exposure boost for virtual sports.
Those in charge of NBA betting, for their part, have recognized the potential long-term value of virtual sports and agreed in 2019 to partner with Highlight Games to create its own sponsored virtual sports game called, ‘NBA Last 90’.
In other words, it already looked inevitable that virtual sports would grow enormously; the COVID-19 crisis will likely just accelerate that imminent growth.
With a dual background in English and sports performance and business analytics, Carter aims to write stories that both engage and inform the reader. He prides himself on his ability to interweave empirical data and traditional narrative storytelling. When he isn’t keeping readers up to date on the latest sports betting legal news, he’s banging his head against a wall regretting his decision to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.