Immersing Your Fans in Virtual Sports Betting

The virtual sports betting revolution began with virtual horse racing and dog racing. With modern realistic graphics, this betting option embraces a wide variety of bet types providing fans with a rapid and continuous wagering activity. In this article, we explore all the pros and cons of virtual sports for your betting business.
7 min read
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By Russell Karp
Vice President, Media & Entertainment
Immersing Your Fans in Virtual Sports Betting

The COVID outbreak has led to a 30 percent increase in virtual sports betting activity. Even though live sports are back and sportsbooks have returned to normal operation, many operators have seen the advantages of adding this lucrative market to their omnichannel experience. But is virtual betting a good option that will appeal to new fans? Let’s look under the hood of this offering.

What Are Virtual Sports?

Virtual sports are simulations of sporting events with virtual athletes and teams. Computer-generated graphics are inspired by real sports and create realistic images and movement to ensure optimal engagement. Virtual sports essentially provide an almost real-life simulated sporting experience that can be enjoyed any time of day or night, leading to greater interest and demand for virtual sports platforms.

There are virtual sports products designed for nearly every sport. These include big draws, such as horse and greyhound racing, American football and football (soccer), several varieties of motorsport, and much more. Each of them provides extensive and creative betting. Unlike physical or real-life games, virtual sports are determined entirely by the output of a random number generator (RNG), a computer program that generates results at random that corresponds to a particular event, and not based on real life events. This is why virtual sports are considered the slot machines of sports betting.

Infographics: What are virtual sports and how they work.

Virtual Sports vs. Sports Simulations vs. Esports

Virtual sports are often confused with sports simulations and esports. Although they use similar technologies, there are actually key differences between them.

Virtual Sports

Virtual sports are games played entirely through computer generation and result in simulated games or races. Virtual sports simulations are fast-paced, with games taking only a few minutes. Betting options are plentiful, yet they happen quickly especially with live betting. Players can also view recent results, statistics, and trends for virtual sports such as basketball and football leagues.


What sets esports apart from virtual sports is that the former has human players controlling the action. Esports refer to professional gaming, in which participants control the games' players and usually play on a live streaming service such as Twitch. Virtual sports are instead controlled entirely by software. The most popular esports events tend to be based on fighting games or shooting games, including counter-strike games, such as Global Offensive, and multiplayer online battle arena games, such as League of Legends.

Sports Simulation  

Like virtual sports, sports simulation is the result of a software platform that controls all the action. The difference between the two is what the software takes into account when producing the results of games or races. Sports simulations are designed to mimic real life teams, athletes, and competitions. Real players are simulated from real teams using their actual stats. Your customers can bet on their favorite teams and use their knowledge of player performance and team strengths and weaknesses when making bets. Virtual sports create a blank slate with generic players and generic teams. This gives you full power in creating the odds for which team wins.

The table with differences of sports simulations, virtual sports, and esports

Advantages of Virtual Sports Betting

Virtual sports platforms are cost-effective and are increasingly gaining traction with sports fans. Some popular sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet, Caesars, and BetRivers are taking advantage of this upward trend. Aside from offering customers another option to wager, virtual sports betting brings the following advantages over traditional sports.

#1 Availability

With traditional sports, you're limited to league schedules. Some sports are only played once per week and only for a few weeks out of the year; virtually no sport is played year round. With virtual sports, players can experience action-filled events at any time of the day, choose from many events, and place multiple bets.

#2 Nonstop Action

Real games can last a long time. For fans who are looking primarily to be entertained by watching their favorite teams go head-to-head against rivals, this is a good thing. But for sports betting, it means fewer bets can be made over a given time period, and bettors must wait longer to see if they've won. Virtual sports games operate under fewer time constraints and for shorter durations, allowing you to pack in even more betting action per day.

#3 Game Variety and Better Fan Experience

With virtual sports, you can provide your fans with a wide option of bets, such as football, tennis, horse racing, and motorsports. They can view and engage interactively from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, the viewing experience is optimal due to computer-generated graphics.

#4 Reliability

Real sports can be unreliable in a few ways. Some of them can be delayed or canceled due to force majeure, such as a player tested positive for COVID. Consequently, sports betting providers can carry the loss. Virtual betting is more reliable. External factors such as weather, event cancellations, or player injuries don't play a role in a simulated game.

#5 Higher Profitability

From a financial perspective, virtual sports are effective, profitable, and have a quick payback period. Virtual sports platforms are more cost-effective for operators, provide betting options around the clock with fast turnarounds ensuring stable income for a sportsbook.

#6 Unquestionable Integrity

Although rare, it isn't unheard of for officials in a sporting event to take a bribe or participants to be influenced. When this happens, and is revealed, major disruptions to the sport will occur.  Virtual sports eliminate match-fixing issues and ensure sports integrity.

Disadvantages of Virtual Sports Betting

There are many ways to set up a RNG for sports betting, with varying degrees of randomness, complexity, and transparency. One of the biggest struggles for sportsbook is to build quality software to deliver virtual events that are truly fair and have unpredictable outcomes. Without an RNG that can accurately simulate randomness, players can learn to guess the pattern, and operators can game the system in their favor. 

To guarantee that an RNG is operating in accordance with industry standards, sports betting operators need to obtain special certifications from independent labs. These labs examine a collection of documents related to the legality of the activities of your company and test your source code for RNG's known weaknesses. During the test, labs verify:

  • statistical randomness
  • internal state of the RNG
  • seeding, re-seeding, and cycling
  • unpredictability and non-repeatability.

Certification is also often required to operate in many regulated markets legally.

Is Betting on Virtual Sports Legal?

The legality of taking bets varies from state to state. In states where betting is illegal, the same applies to virtual sports. Since this is a relatively new market, states that do allow betting are still adapting to it. At least one state, West Virginia, has made betting on esports illegal, but virtual sports are in a different category. USBets Managing Editor Erik Raskin explains:

“Some states such as New Jersey require individual approval from the Division of Gaming Enforcement for any new betting market, while others such as Nevada have implied approval of all sports – but that doesn’t cover esports, since it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a sport. The key criterion is that the event in question is not pre-taped. In the case of a high-profile NBA 2k tournament, for example, because it aired on ESPN on delay, US sportsbooks could not take action on it”.

When Virtual Sports Meet Traditional Sports

Even with successful sportsbooks offering virtual sports as a betting option you may be wondering if customers are willing to place bets on a computer simulation. Esports has certainly shown itself to be a popular option, both as an entertainment medium and as a vehicle for betting. The combination of 'always-on' events and betting, precise and transparent controls, and the added excitement over traditional games has made virtual sports betting not only a worthy substitute real life sports events, but a powerful draw in its own right.

If you need a professional consultation on how to implement virtual sports betting, please drop us a line.

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