Virtual sports have been around in Europe for roughly a decade. But the idea of betting on virtual sporting events — from football to darts to horse races — is still something of a curiosity in the US gaming industry.
But this seems to be changing.
A quick primer on virtual sports
Virtual sports are essentially video games where computer software plays out sporting events, races or contests. Advanced algorithms determine the outcome; they account for the skill of the participant(s) as well as the luck elements inherent in real-world sporting events.
For instance, European operators offered sports betting on a virtual version of Euro 2016 this year.
The virtual sports operator can set lines and offer wagering on these games. Since they’re not “real,” they can be offered 24/7 and at whatever intervals the operator chooses.
Virtual sports are intriguing products that seem to have many possible uses, and US casino companies are starting to see their potential.
Successful field test for virtual sports in Nevada
Last week, Inspired Gaming’s virtual sports product received regulatory approval from the Nevada Gambling Control Board after the product was successfully trialled at a William Hill sportsbook in the state.
A full rollout of virtual sports in Nevada is likely to occur sometime in 2017.
According to a press release from Inspired Gaming, a full complement of virtual sports products will be available at William Hill’s sportsbooks in Las Vegas. Sportsbooks will display virtual sport contests and races on monitors and TV screens inside the books, alongside real-world sporting events.
Inspired’s chief commercial officer for digital games, Steve Rogers, called the regulatory sign-off “fantastic news for the business.”
“This announcement again confirms Inspired as the world leader in virtual sports innovation and deployment, and we look forward to delivering cutting-edge entertainment with an edge to William Hill’s customers in Nevada,” Rogers said. “Expansion in the US is a strategic focus for Inspired, and we’re excited to extend our virtual sports offering to specifically suit this market.”
Inspired in New Jersey
In addition to Nevada, Inspired has already dipped its toe into another market in the US: New Jersey.
In New Jersey, Inspired is working with two casinos: Golden Nugget and Resorts. Both casinos are likely to roll out virtual sports products in the coming months.
The New Jersey market is quite different from Nevada’s, where sports betting is legal. But because virtual sports is such a malleable product, Resorts and Golden Nugget see plenty of potential, despite their lack of a brick-and-mortar sportsbook.
Since the outcomes aren’t based on real-world sporting events or real-world athletes, virtual sports won’t run afoul of federal sports betting law. Therefore, both properties have the option to offer virtual sports online through their licensed online gaming sites and on their property, either at bars or in special areas, such as Resorts’ iGaming Lounge.
As is the case in Nevada, the debut of virtual sports in New Jersey is likely to occur in the first quarter of 2017.
Leap Gaming in California
Inspired isn’t the only virtual sports provider trying to get a foot in the door in the US market.
Earlier this year, the Pala Band of Mission Indians in California partnered with Leap Gaming to add virtual sports to its social casino. Perhaps, further down the road, virtual sports will be added its real-money online gambling products, including the tribe’s NJ online casino.
“I’m very excited about this new collaboration with Leap Gaming which will allow us to be one of the first platforms to launch virtual sports as a social gaming product in North America,” said Pala Interactive’s Chief Social Gaming Officer Brett Calapp in a press release.
Calapp went on to hint about virtual sports expanding to other platforms.
“Leap’s virtual sports products are truly state of the art and provide a visually stunning player experience across all platforms,” he said. “We look forward to start offering this premium content to our customers.”