[toc]Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story on virtual sports betting. Part one.
Virtual sports betting will be deployed in several different manners in the United States, as a trend that became popular in Europe gains traction on this side of the Atlantic. That deployment will happen at both land-based casinos and online.
Virtual sports is an intriguing product for US casinos, in large part because they’re capable of being used on multiple platforms in myriad ways, including:
- As a content filler for land-based sportsbooks;
- As an on-property amenity;
- Online, as a real-money online gambling or social casino product.
Virtual sports as content filler for land-based sports books
Virtual sports is a proven complimentary product for sportsbooks, and that’s precisely how William Hill US is using it in some of its Las Vegas locations.
In an interview with GamblingCompliance earlier this year, William Hill US CEO Joe Asher noted that during lulls in live sports content, virtual racing becomes a big draw and could be on as many as five of a sportsbook’s 15 screens.
“We see virtual mainly as a filler product,” Asher told LSR. “There’s less live horse racing content available these days, so virtual racing fills the void, particularly on slower days when the major tracks aren’t running.”
“We’d also expect virtual sports to be popular during the mornings and afternoons when there aren’t many live sporting events.”
According to Asher, virtual sports are bringing in some new customers as well as appealing to existing clientele.
“The initial feedback from our customers has been positive,” he said. “We are seeing good crossover from our regular pari-mutuel customers as well as traditional sports bettors.”
Virtual sports as an on-property amenity
Virtual sports can also be used to enhance land-based casinos outside of the sportsbook. This is incredibly important in the US market, since sports betting is currently only legal in Nevada.
Ed Andrewes, the CEO of EA Gaming Consultancy, heads up Resorts AC’s digital arm. He said he believes virtual sports can become a strong asset in the New Jersey casino’s iGaming Lounge. That’s an on-property lounge where people can relax, socialize, and gamble on tablets.
“Virtual sports [are] key to our strategy for the [iGaming] lounge, and we think they will prove very popular and have the potential to create a really exciting atmosphere in that area,” he said.
Andrewes also noted that while Resorts doesn’t have any short-term plans to offer virtual sports at bars or restaurants at the casino, “this will undoubtedly happen if they prove as popular as we think they will.”
Golden Nugget is planning an online-only rollout, but Vice President of Online Gaming Thomas Winter called onsite deployment of virtual sports a decision for a later date.
“On-property virtual sports is an option longer term, though there are logistics consideration involved,” Winter said. “Online will lead the roll-out, and with more information [on] hand, it could help with the decision making on the convergence of online and on-property virtual sports down the line.”
Online will be the focus in the US
As interesting as this on-property integration might be, with the exception of Nevada, virtual sports will largely have to prove themselves online.
Three operators — Pala, Resorts and Golden Nugget — currently offer or will soon offer virtual sports online. Interestingly, all three will be using virtual sports in slightly different ways.
Golden Nugget and VS
Golden Nugget’s plan is to add virtual sports to the company’s online suite of offerings in New Jersey by the end of Q1 2017. GN will accomplish this through a partnership with another virtual sports company, Inspired Gaming, which has also inked a deal with Resorts Casino.
“Our Q1 virtual sports launch is still on track,” Winter commented.
At launch, Golden Nugget will offer:
- Horse racing – Flats, Jumps, and Sprints
- Motor racing (IndyCar style)
- Dog racing – Flats
Down the road, pending development and certification, Golden Nugget will add:
- Stock car racing
- Bicycle racing
- Football (American football)
Winter said he believes virtual sports will be particularly complimentary to Golden Nugget’s live dealer online casino games. Both products combine certain online and live elements.
He estimates that virtual sports could account for three to five percent of Golden Nugget’s total online gaming revenue in its first year.
“We are very excited to see how New Jersey patrons will react to this innovation,” Winter said.
He did point to the newness of the product as a potential barrier.
“We’ll see how long it takes customers to test and trust virtual products.”
Resorts Casino and VS
Resorts is also prepping for a Q1 launch, and as noted above, has also partnered with Inspired Gaming.
The key difference between Resorts and Golden Nugget is the former plans to utilize virtual sports online, and as an on-site amenity to enhance its iGaming Lounge as soon as possible.
Resorts will launch with a slightly different catalogue of virtual sports offerings than Golden Nugget.
“In due course, we will have a really wide mixture of product, but initially it will be horse racing, greyhound racing, boxing, tennis and soccer,” Andrewes said.
Pala Interactive and VS
Pala Interactive has already added social virtual sports games to its Pala Interactive Social Casino platform. That happened in conjunction with the company’s white label partner, Pala Casino Spa and Resort, and Leap Gaming.
“As far as we know, this is the first time virtual sports will be offered in the social space, and we are very excited about this pivotal step,” Leap Gaming CEO Yariv Lissauer said, before listing why he believes it will perform extraordinarily well as a social product.
“There’s no real sports betting in the social space,” he said. “Furthermore, in the social space (as well as real-money online gambling) high frequency is key (especially with our instant version), and virtual sports allows for high frequency.
In addition to the social casino launch, Ryan said the company is already working on a real money online casino launch. The initial launch on the MyPalaCasino.com app was racing-focused and included:
- Horse racing
- Dog racing
However, according to Pala Interactive Chief Social Officer Brett Calapp, Pala will soon be expanding its virtual sports options to include tennis and soccer across more of the company’s platforms.
“We will be offering the games first on our web and Facebook apps with mobile access soon to come for iOS and Android apps,” Calapp said.
As far as market potential, Calapp remains cautiously optimistic.
“With our launch so fresh, it’s too early to dive into the player trends, but we are enthusiastic about the potential of this form of entertainment for our customers and their players.”