Like esports, virtual sports thrived during the pandemic. As a result, of the lockdowns, they had to cancel all physical sports.
Casinos and sportsbooks had to close their doors as well. This paved the way for a monumental rise in virtual sports and online casino gameplay. Moreover, virtual sports started offering alternative products for both operators and sports bettors.
Before the pandemic, virtual sports were a marginalized product and a misunderstood product for many bettors as well.
Nevertheless, they showed a boom during the pandemic and helped the sports betting industry to survive. That was despite the huge losses that it suffered at the heights of the pandemic, especially in countries like England.
One of the most popular UK operators. William Hill said that more than a hundred of its betting shops would reopen once the lockdowns end. Mainly due to the expectation that in-store betting wouldn’t recover.
Financially, virtual betting among major providers in the UK fell from April to August in the pandemic year. From $16.7 million to just $6.7 million. It was still higher than in the pre-pandemic year, though, which shows the gap.
Virtual Sports in the Retail Sector
Before the lockdowns hit, virtual sports were popular in the retail sector. DS Virtual Gaming, a company from Australia, said that it derives about 80% of its income comes from retail operations.
Then there was a big move from the offline to the online sector. Most sports bettors still wanted to place bets at online sportsbooks.
Notably, bettors that enjoyed virtual sports before the pandemic seem to like it even now that the lockdowns are over. They continue to place bets at the same sportsbooks and the culture of betting shops still forms a major community.
According to the head of DS Virtual Gaming, the pandemic didn’t impact the popularity of virtual sports in land-based operations. They’ve always been a major product for the retail sector and the pandemic hasn’t changed that.
Although virtual sports is not mainstream yet. The numbers are such that for every normal sports bet, there are up to ten bets on virtual sports.
In fact, some of the company’s partners don’t offer traditional sports betting at all. Instead, they rely exclusively on virtual sports and they are making a good profit by that.
Why Are Virtual Sports Popular?
The appeal of virtual sports has many aspects. They are the closes to live sport since they are on at all times. And there’s only a short break between games and events. Even in the range of minutes, which makes it an engaging experience with immediate wins and losses.
In many countries, it’s impossible to think how betting shops would operate without virtual sports, especially virtual horse racing. Even as much as 55% of the betting shops’ income comes from virtual sports.
The experience has been the same for Inspired Entertainment, one of DS Virtual Gaming’s competitors. In Greece for example, the company was able to launch new content soon after the pandemic to keep interest high. In the UK and Italy, the activity returned 95% of the level it had before the pandemic in betting shops.
More bettors than ever know about virtual sports and there’s more to that than meets the eye. One of the most notable events was the Virtual Grand National. A virtual sports event with almost 5 million viewers in the UK.
They broadcast it nationally alongside the Virtual Kentucky Derby. Mainstream media coverage led to many sports bettors exploring the idea of virtual sports for the first time.
This was the sort of a big event that virtual sports hoped for. Moreover, the pandemic provided the best possible environment. Horse racing fans are keen to see horse races and virtual sports.
Virtual sports providers believe that virtual sports won’t lose traction. Quite the contrary, virtual sports will continue to grow.
More bettors are making virtual sports a part of their routines. Virtual sports are entertaining and will prove to be crucial for the post-pandemic recovery of the entire sports betting sector.