The Game Haus

Virtual Games Step into the Breach for Sports Bettors

This is a paid guest post.

The mass cancellation of sporting events arguably isn’t important when we frame in the context of a pandemic sweeping across the globe. But we can simultaneously lament the lack of sport while respecting its secondary placing in the grand scheme of things.

Indeed, it’s intriguing to consider where we would be right now in the sports world had things moved forward as normal. Right now, we would be hurtling towards the climax of the NBA and NHL seasons; we would also be following Tiger Woods around Augusta at the Masters; the build-up for the Olympics would be gathering pace; and, soccer fans would be looking forward to the Champions League Final and European Championships in June.

Perhaps for sports bettors, the biggest ‘misses’ were the blue-ribbon betting events like March Madness, the Grand National and the Belmont Stakes. Many events have been postponed indefinitely, and it does seem a little ambitious to think that they will be rearranged again in a few months. 2020 feels like a shutout for bettors.

Casinos getting online boost

What happens, then, when you visit an online sportsbook without any major sports taking place? Well, most sites are hybrids anyway, so you’ll find that a Canadian poker site will have a full casino (live and virtual) sitting beside the sportsbook. Data is coming through to show that there is a surge in online casino and poker players as people adjust to life under lockdown.

However, for the sportsbooks specifically, there are some interesting adaptions. First, there is a showcase of obscure sports offered. On one site we visited, the promoted live betting events were table tennis. You do get some soccer games, but they are normally low-level leagues in countries that have yet to experience the full force of the pandemic.

The intriguing thing, though, is how quickly virtual sports to the fore. At the moment, we are seeing the conclusion of the Ultimate Quaran-Team competition. Essentially, it was a hastily set-up FIFA 20 competition, with a representative from 128 professional soccer clubs playing the EA game for their team. Sportsbooks were quick to jump on the event, offering a host of markets to reflect a normal soccer competition. Nascar and F1 also hosted virtual racing events, for which bookmakers provided betting markets.

Esports sees renewed interest

Obviously, esports is also getting a boost in interest on sports betting sites. Most of the best sites already showcased betting markets for events like Overwatch Contenders, LoL and CS:GO competitions. But it’s now front and center of the sportsbooks’ promotional activity. Evidence shows that more of us are reaching for the video game controllers of late, and game-streaming sites like Steam are getting more viewers, so you see a natural progression to betting.

Sites have also been pushing out virtual sports. These are a strange beast, and they should not be confused with esports. Essentially, they invite you to bet on simulated games – tennis, soccer, football, rugby, horse racing – and software is used to determine a random outcome. There will be a house-edge to the games, of course, ensuring the sportsbook will eventually make a profit, but players have been flocking to them, and you can win some serious money with parlay bets etc.

In the end, bettors – like everyone else – will want to see the major sports leagues and competitions back in business soon. As we mentioned, sports doesn’t seem important in light of what’s happening around the globe. But it forms an important part of many of our lives. It seems, though, we will have to live without it for a while longer yet.

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