The time when gambling meant leaving one’s home has long since passed. The advent of online sportsbooks and casinos over the past twenty-five years has made wagering of all kinds readily accessible and available in ever newly developed mediums. The technological age has made real-time live betting possible from one’s living room, and betting on increasingly discrete possibilities has become the norm. A recent leap in bookmaker offerings is virtual sports betting, which saw a recent surge in popularity amid the global cancellation of all major sporting competitions.
What is virtual sports betting?
In short, it is sports betting without sports. Not to be confused with esports, competitive video game competitions, virtual sports betting allows a punter to wager on an entirely simulated sports event. The framework of sports itself becomes a sort of dressing around a wager game based on randomly generated data. Complex computer algorithms process this data and produce an outcome, which advanced computer graphics display as a viewable match. The appearance of these simulated sports broadcasts resemble that of games like FIFA and Football Manager, to which virtual sports owes some of its popularity. Virtual sports is offered not only for football, but also basketball, tennis, greyhound racing, and more.
The practice of virtual sports betting operates almost indistinguishably from its real-life counterpart. The bookmaker’s betting program provides simulated ranking tables and player statistics which bettors can use to assess the value of the relevant odds. In terms of betting markets, one will find the same moneylines, over/under bets, goalscorer predictions, and other outcomes that can be probabilistically measured.
The novel aspect of virtual sports is that a virtual match can be found every few minutes. Without a dependency on physical athletes, virtual sports can be hosted twenty-four hours per day in rapid, almost instantaneous intervals. This possibility can be problematic for at-risk gamblers, but benignly convenient for recreational bettors during periods without real sports.
Is it really sports betting?
While the creators of virtual sports betting have gone through great pains to bring the experience as close to actual sports betting as possible, it is a stretch to call it sports betting. Rather, it is a betting product created to be marketed to sports bettors, and in truth shares a greater affinity with online casino games.
This is due to the fact that match outcomes are always predetermined by the bookmaker, which brings about two consequences.
First, no sports knowledge is required because none is useful. Because there are no real players with actual statistics or performance variables, the intuitive union of gut feeling and logic in traditional sports betting asserts no influence. One gauges probabilities based on cut and dry probability, as one does when playing roulette.
Second, virtual sports betting is structurally designed to favor the bookmaker. Unlike when betting on physical sports matches, outcomes are random only insofar as the program’s random number generator does its job. Such software is verified for fairness in a bookmaker’s licensing process, but because the bookmaker has foreknowledge of the outcome, it has complete control over determining the most advantageous odds for itself. The bookmaker can design a structural edge into its calculations, making the possibility of betting profitably in the long term even more remote. Roulette’s 5.26% ‘House edge’ is designed in a similar, albeit less complex manner.
Replay sports betting
A less common but comparable betting alternative is replay sports. In essence, replay sports functions on the same principle as virtual sports, but the source data is different. Where virtual sports displays simulated matches based on randomly generated data, replay sports does the same with actual historical data. With replay sports one can bet on the outcome of a match that has already taken place, which will unfold virtually exactly as it had physically. The player of course does not know the teams or the match until afterwards, but the ambition is to simulate a more authentic betting experience.
Virtual sports betting is clearly no replacement for sports betting. While it is convenient, it is less profitable, given that it removes the sports bettor’s greatest advantages, intuition and indeterminacy. Nonetheless, it is a viable form of entertainment when all things are considered. Virtual sports can be found at most major bookmakers, and a few big names in the market are Unibet, William Hill, and 888Sports.