CCO, Bobby Longhurst, argues why virtual sports are far from being a short-term fix for operators
Virtual sports are far from being a niche product and have actually already proved themselves to be a vital asset for any operator’s portfolio. The vertical has demonstrated that it is the perfect complementary tool for live sports, as the action is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, regardless of time zone. Prior to the pandemic, virtuals sports such as football and horse racing already accounted for between 20 and 25 per cent of turnover across retail and online.
Of course, virtual sports have been thrusted into the spotlight and are now a key revenue driver given that major live sports have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. When we eventually see a return to major sporting action, the virtuals journey will be far from over and will continue to be an important part of the product mix.
Virtual offerings were never created to challenge live sports or cannibalize sports betting revenues. Instead, they were designed as content fillers between matches and races, and during off-peak times. These events have always been developed with the intention of replicating the excitement of live action and offering bettors an engaging and attractive alternative in the absence of regular sports. Fundamental to the growth of virtual sports in recent times has been the improved quality of graphics, which now, arguably, rivals that of the latest games console releases, making it a truly immersive experience.
But what really makes virtual offerings standout is their ease to bet on, especially on mobile, with multiple events happening every couple of minutes throughout the day making them the perfect on-the-go betting vertical.
However, as well as offering players the chance to bet at their convenience, they also provide operators with the chance to cross-sell and close the gap between sportsbook and casino. Sports bettors resonate with the content due to its familiarity with a real-life event, while casino players will favour the RNG model that virtuals incorporate.
Virtual horse racing can replicate the excitement of watching your horse gallop to the front without the need for vast amounts of study or knowledge. Instead, the result is decided by RNG, just like their favourite slot offerings. And vice-versa, while the block on live sport continues, virtual sports are providing a perfect service as well as offering sportsbook players a route into casino that perhaps they hadn’t seen before.
The important consideration for suppliers and operators alike to do now is work on retaining these newly reached players. The audience is there and it’s up to the industry to capitalise on the potential of virtual sports by creating different sports, more betting markets and constantly improving those graphics and sounds to suit the high expectations of players who want an ultra-realistic experience.