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Auto racing is back at the books, in a sense. Whether what’s there is a true sport remains up for debate.
Both Nevada and New Jersey gambling regulators recently approved betting on NASCAR iRacing.
Betting is limited to the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, which includes actual NASCAR drivers. That’s different from the eNASCAR Coca Cola Racing Series, which includes “40 of the best simulation racers,” according to the website.
Both series involve competitors at their own homes using video game-like setups to race on the iRacing.com platform.
The professional iRacing series has helped fill the gap with major sports shut down from the coronavirus pandemic.
According to ShowBuzzDaily, last week’s Bristol iRacing event was the third most-watched sports event in the US with 1,179,000 million viewers across Fox and FS1.
The top spots didn’t belong to sports programming. WWE Friday Night Smackdown took first with 2.398 million viewers. Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills Dog Show ranked second with 1.227 million viewers.
Of course, neither state considers iRacing a standard sport, either.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board announced betting on the NASCAR iRacing professional races is allowed under a regulation that covers “other events.”
That’s different from a “professional sport or athletic events sanctioned by a governing body” which sits under its own heading of a regulation concerning permitted wagers.
The iRacing bets are authorized under the same regulation as the recent esports betting approvals for Counter-Strike in the state.
The Nascar iRacing series falls under esports on the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement‘s most recent list of approved leagues and events.
The series is the only esports betting event with authorization in the state. Like Nevada, esports events in New Jersey require specific approval. A bill that would have allowed betting on esports without specific approval never made it out of committee this year.
Rahul Sood, CEO of esports betting operator Unikrn, told LSR last month he expected more esports approvals in the US.
“Regulators are willing to move quickly right now,” he said. “I’ve been speaking to a lot of them, and I know for sure they want us to go live as soon as possible.”
At least one member of a US sportsbook operator considers iRacing a real sport.
“[iRacing] was approved under the umbrella of actual sport because you have actual athletes competing in that event, which is an interesting nuance,” said Seth Young, Chief Innovation Officer at PointsBet. “It’s not the same as having pro gamers competing on the same platform.”
Young’s comments came during iGaming Business‘ “Sports Betting Without Live Sports” webinar Tuesday morning.
Another big reason why the races might not be considered a sport: some competitors are treating them like a video game.
NASCAR professional racer Bubba Wallace admitted he “rage quit” during last weekend’s iRacing event at Bristol.
Wallace and Clint Bowyer crashed on the 11th lap of the 150-lap race. He eventually lost one of his sponsors, Blue-Emu, over the early exit.