In recent times virtual sports have come into vogue with the betting population, their advent having come about primarily due to the popularity of computer games such as Fifa and other fantasy sports games.
While those games peaked in popularity, virtual betting was beginning to take shape and now real bets can be placed with various bookmakers on virtual versions of many sports, supplied by a number of developers.
What Can You Bet On?
The list of sports you can bet on in the virtual world is growing all the time, with virtual betting pretty much mirroring the real betting world in terms of what sports and events are already the most popular with the wagering public.
Every few minutes, computer-generated races at whimsically named fictional racetracks go off lasting just a few moments each. Races are priced-up on a fixed-odds basis and run out on screen with a final official result displayed.
Run in a similar style to the horse racing operation above, computer-generated dog races are run in a British format, i.e. with traps 1-6. As with horse racing all the greyhounds are named and the prices are fixed, backers have to simply make their choice and wait a short time for the images to play out before bets are settled.
Games kick-off every few minutes and last only a matter of moments with just the pre-determined goalmouth action shown on screen. Markets including match winner, correct score, total goals, handicaps and many others are available to bet on while the teams are given amusingly similar names to the real thing. So you could see the Mersey Blues, Chelsea Pensioners or Watford Hornets.
Shown in the one-day or Twenty20 format, virtual cricket matches produce many markets including match winner, total sixes, number of wickets lost etc.
The advent of a proper virtual test recently between England and Sri Lanka however means there could be more to come in the virtual cricket world.
Twelve or so Formula One style cars take part in virtual motor racing events, run every few minutes. Punters can bet on the overall winning driver, as well as forecasts and tricasts with each race just a couple of laps long.
Again over two laps, four riders are priced up in races at fictional speedway stadiums with bets available on the winner or on the forecast.
Every few minutes runners and riders in virtual trotting races are priced up, the races panning out much like the virtual thoroughbred races mentioned above.
6-9 fictional riders doing three laps of a velodrome is the order of the day here with odds available on the overall race winner, the forecast and the tricast.
CGI versions of real darts players can be used for this, the computerised matches taking place as a one-leg shootout with odds available on the match winner, checkouts and more.
Virtual tennis matches are played out over just one game and take place every few minutes. Players can bet on the winner, total points and the correct score.
How Does Virtual Betting Work?
A lot of different variables go into producing virtual sporting events for betting purposes, and there are a few things you should know more about.
RNG’s and Algorithms
Random Number Generators are used within virtual sports to produce a unique result, much as they are within slot machine games for example.
The RNG can select the number of runners in a virtual horse race, other variables put in place by the computer algorithm such as the perceived ability of each runner and the weight they are carrying, before selecting a likely result.
Random Number Generators are independently checked and accredited by eCOGRA in order to comply with the Gambling Commission’s technical standards.
Do All Backers Watch the Same Event?
On any given bookmaking website yes, all punters are watching the same event play out. The computer will want only a certain percentage of favourites to win virtual horse races and such like, as the majority of backers will pick these selections in each race.
Do All Bookmakers Share Events?
When it comes to the Virtual Grand National, a soccer e-battle where the outcome is decided partly by the computer and partly by actual gamers controlling things then yes, all bookmakers will be covering the very same event.
In general though, each bookmaker will only be showing virtual events unique to their website in order to be the only firm taking bets on each match or race.
You need to watch and bet, most virtual sports results are lost to the ether as soon as they’re over with the exception of special events such as VGN and VT
Are Results Rigged?
No. As is the casino with casino games, random number generators have to be used and independently verified and so while no skill can be used by a backer to predict results, nor can bookmakers unduly influence or ‘fix’ results other than to ensure that overall, they retain a margin.
Can You Beat the System?
Virtual sports are very fast-moving and so attempting to play around with backing favourite, second-favourites etc is difficult. Ultimately you can’t accurately predict results of computer-generated virtual games.
What is the Typical RTP?
This will differ depending on the producer of the games and the bookmaker involved, but typically the return to player percentage can range anywhere from 83% to 96%.
Can You Bet In-Play?
Not right now. Whether longer versions of virtual sports events will be produced in the future allowing punters to bet live in-play remains to be seen, but for now it’s all about the fixed odds put up before the event and nothing more.
Frequency of Virtual Sports
Given that there are potential results going into the trillions, there is no and never will be a shortage of virtual sports events to bet on. As such, virtual horse racing, football, tennis and a lot more besides are available to bet on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a multitude of online bookmakers.
In terms of their frequency, events within each section of each and every sports type tend to run every 3-4 minutes giving punters countless opportunities to bet for fun, much in the same way that online casino games and slots are a never-ending affair.
Payout Limits on Virtual Sports Betting
On each individual event, the odds work in exactly the same way as they do with real live sports. So, a successful £10 bet on a 4/1 shot in a virtual horse race will yield a total return of £50 and if you’re betting to smaller stakes nothing will be an issue.
However, while maximum payouts on horse racing or football with major online bookmakers can hit £1m – £2m and huge multi-million-pound jackpots can be won on progressive slots decided by a random number generator, the maximum payouts are very much smaller on virtual sports so be aware of that if you’re a major player.
A typical bookmaker offering maximum payouts of £250,000 to £1,000,000 on popular sports may have a limit of only £20,000 for virtual events, something to bear in mind if you back a 100/1 shot in a virtual horse race as you’d need to stick to stakes below £200, something some bigger players could easily miss.
Who Runs Virtual Sports Betting Events?
Many digital content providers are on the market producing high-quality virtual sports, the majority of which can be bet on when that content is paid for by an online bookmaker.
A major supplier of sports betting data to various platforms, BetRadar’s integration can be witnessed among other places at bet365. BetRadar are also planning to launch a virtual Euro2020 tournament after the postponement of the real thing, with pre-tournament odds to be made available along with individual match betting.
Based in New York but with offices in Britain, Italy and India, Inspired is the company behind the Virtual Grand National which is now in its fourth year and has proven to be incredibly accurate.
Inspired also produce other virtual horse racing events alongside football, American football, basketball, cricket, speedway, tennis and roulette for various customers including Ladbrokes.
The premium sports betting software provider offers solutions for the online betting and gaming industries, producing sportsbook platforms, lotteries and of course virtual games working alongside Sportradar.
NSoft’s virtual betting products include greyhound and horse races, motor racing, football and basketball.
Working within the financial trading as well as the betting industry, Playtech are responsible for various virtual sports games reaching the market including a good selection of scheduled fixed odds virtual sports events using RNG’s to decide the outcome. All players see the same games and the same results.
Playtech are also one of few operators to offer Virtual In-Play, meaning players can get all the benefits of live sports betting even when real-life events are unavailable.
Alongside their casino platforms, Slotegrator are another key provider of virtual sports games on which players can ultimately bet. Beginning with football, horse racing, greyhounds and speedway Slotegrator are looking to increase their offering in the years to come.
Virtual Sports Betting Margins
Naturally, there is always a margin. The bookmaker needs this in order to stay in business. While we can attempt to beat the margin in live sports by betting on what we believe is an overpriced participant, we cannot do that in an event that is decided by a random number generator.
So, we always have to keep in mind that, across all games and across all players, the bookmaker absolutely will make a profit and in this case they have a fee to pay to the provider of the platform too, but it’s up to us to decide on whether or not the odds are stacked too much in their favour.
The typical margin on an average UK horse race for example is around 5-6%, but in a virtual horse race or a virtual football match this margin on the basic win market can be more like 10-11% so be aware that the longer-term odds are very much stacked in the providers’ favour.
Is Betting on Virtual Games Sports Betting or Casino Betting?
There is a difference of opinion here. Even though what’s unfolding in front of us is a computerised version of a sport, the fact is it’s all made up and so we can’t really call it sport in the true sense of the word.
In terms of the nuts and bolts of virtual betting games, they run from a random number generator and no human has control of the outcome as the game is progressing. Therefore, strictly speaking betting on virtual sports is closer to casino gambling and would legally be treated as such, regardless of the fact that it is mainly sports fans who take part.
Advantages of Virtual Betting for Punters
While those used to fantasy sports games or casino betting would not look down their nose at virtual sports games, those usually deeply embedded in the ‘real’ world of sports betting have tended in the past to rather snicker at the thought of getting involved.
That said, there are always plusses and negatives to any enterprise, with these being the perceived advantages of betting on virtual sports:
- It’s fast – every second, taking into the account the various events within each virtual sport, a new game or race goes off providing thousands of opportunities per day to have a bet.
- It’s simple – while spending years learning how to competently bet on horse racing isn’t everyone’s bag, the lack of skill required here means anyone can get involved and at the click of a mouse you make your selection and watch the event play out.
- It’s good for beginners – in addition to the above, if you’re just starting out in the sports betting world, wagering on virtual results can help you to learn the basics as well as some of the terminology.
- It’s round the clock – you may not have a gambling issue, however for whatever reason your schedule means you may miss most real sporting events. Virtual sports are available 24/7 meaning there is always something to bet on for fun.
Disadvantages of Virtual Betting for Punters
OK, so there are some good points but in the interests of balance we have to list the negatives as well.
Bookmakers wouldn’t produce virtual games and races if there wasn’t a guaranteed profit in it for them overall, so be aware that such events exist to ultimately serve them meaning you should be aware of the following before taking part:
- You don’t have control – unlike with horse racing where you make an informed bet based on knowledge, results of virtual games are decided by a computer so it is always a game of chance rather than skill.
- Margins are bigger – possibly in order to pay game providers as well as make a profit, the overall margin on virtual sports is bigger than what is offered in markets on the real thing.
- The temptation is greater – because essentially one virtual event is the same as the next, in that they are all decided by an RNG, many punters are tempted not to stop and to keep betting which places the odds further in the bookmakers’ favour.
- There’s nothing to analyse – regular sports bettors love the idea of analysing stats and previewing events before making an informed choice, but in the virtual world there is no reason to do this. The serious point to this is, while virtual sports betting is good for beginners, it cannot teach people what to look for in terms of how to second-guess the outcome of an event as it is purely computer-generated and so that skill is essentially redundant.