If you are a sports fan you will not forget 2020 in a hurry. An unfinished Premier League, an incomplete horse racing season, delayed Premier League Darts and World Snooker Championships, a decimated Formula 1 season and a postponed Olympic Games means it’s been a miserable time. Of course the big ‘Covid-19 shutdown’ has been for good reason.
But if you have suffered as a sports fan, spare a thought for the bookmakers who, like all high-street businesses, have seen their doors bolted shut. And while they have an online option of placing bets online, the lack of live sport has seen betting turnover nosedive.
Apart from Swedish trotting racing, the Russian Hockey League, Turkish and Mexican Soccer Leagues, which attracted only a handful of tiny bets during April and May, the only real live sports betting product was eSports. It thrived too. According to a recent report in the New York Times half of all European wagering between early March and the end of May had been on eSports and bookmakers saw a 40-fold increase in eSports betting.
But as the mechanical hares start to whirl their way around greyhound tracks again, racing cars start their engines, soccer players return to their pitches and horses enter the starting stall, eSports is likely to slip back down the sports betting pecking order.
However eSports was not the only betting medium to prosper during the ‘big 2020 lockdown’ and online bookmakers seem pretty confident the other big winner during the spring of 2020, virtual sports betting, will continue to generate millions in the years ahead.
Virtual Sports – The Post Covid-19 Game Changer
Virtual sports come in many guises, such as online poker and online Formula E. But neither bookmakers or punters particularly like them. They involve real people playing real games and as the saying goes, ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’.
At the start of April 2020 the NBA devised a ‘NBA 2K20’ virtual tournament to raise money for charity by using some of the biggest names in the game. It went wrong at the very start though as the first game, which featured the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Miami Heat’s Derrick Jones Jr, was subject to an avalanche of bets (on eventual winner Jones Jr) long before the game got underway – and was broadcast on ESPN.
More recently, in Formula E’s all-electric series’ virtual ‘Race at Home Challenge’
German driver Daniel Abt lost his job with Audi motorsport after he allowed an impersonator, pro eSports racer Lorenz Hörzing, to step in for him in a race and leave Abt’s previous form well behind. This time there was no betting scandal but the seeds of doubt were sown.
Virtual Sports for Bookmakers & Punters Alike
Now, be it speedway, tennis, horse racing, or golf, the virtual sports you can bet on with online bookmakers involves no human interaction. Most importantly that includes the results. Results of all virtual games, matches and races are created by an automated ‘random number generator’ (RNG)
Bookmaker virtual sports are actually no different to an online slot machine, the outcome has been decided the moment the game starts by virtue of the RNG meaning no matter how much you shout at your screen your selection will not perform any better or worse than it was destined to do. But, this does not detract from the most two important factors in sports betting: thrills and excitement.
How virtual sports betting odds are calculated is also very interesting because this uses the conventional laws of probability, the same as you would in real/live sports. It is a fact more favourites win in virtual races than 5/1 shots.
And how does this happen? The best way to explain is by imagining all runners in a six-runner horse race are allocated numbered balls and 100 balls are placed in a sack. It is the RNG’s job to pull the winning ball from the sack however, the even-money shot is even-money because half of the 100 balls have his number written on them. Similarly the 25/1 shot has just four balls with its number on it and the 9/1 shot has just 10 of the 100 numbered balls in the sack.
Naturally the bookmakers add their margin to the prices but the hard and fast rule is… the shorter the price of a virtual selection the greater its probability of winning and the larger its price the less likely it is to win. With no jockeys falling off, no hostile audiences to distract your darts player and betting odds that make perfect transparent sense, virtual sports betting is a real winner that will continue to thrive long into the decade.