How Virtual Sports Betting Gained Market Ground
June 23, 2023

When the seasons are over and professional teams are using the downtime to reinforce their squads, what do avid sports bettors do? Some turn their attention to other sports, while others take a break from the constant highs and lows of analyzing and betting all season.

But for others still, the games never end. Welcome to the world of virtual sports betting.

A brief history of virtual sports betting

The history of virtual sports betting requires you to look at two separate timelines: virtual sports (without the betting) and the commercialization of betting on virtual sports. They have nearly half a century’s gap between them.

Virtual sports – a computer-generated game and its respective result – has been around since the 60s. But widespread betting on it didn’t catch on until 2010, and its appearance has changed significantly. It went from a simple interface like the Pong games of the olden days to fully-involved, computer-animated “games” you can watch on a screen.

And with the COVID-19 lockdowns plunging us into unknown territories with the halting of real sports and closures of physical betting shops, you can see why and how virtual sports betting took off.

What’s the difference between virtual sports, real sports, and esports?

Unless you have experience in virtual sports betting, trying to differentiate between the different types of sports available can be confusing.

Real sports are real games played by real players in real-time. Most bettors place wagers on these games, and it’s only as active for as long as the season goes. Your results depend not only on the players’ skill but their health, the weather, their morale, and other sudden boosts of inspiration that could see them pull upsets and clutches.

eSports, on the other hand, are video games played by professional video game players. These are typically multiplayer games such as League of Legends or Overwatch. The “e” means “electronic,” and the sport aspect refers to the players’ skill and tactics in winning matches.

Finally, virtual sports. They mimic real sports in that it has “players” with “skills” and other statistics that affect the outcome but are not played by any human. Everything is computer-generated, and games don’t last as long as their real counterpart. A “game” kicks off, the computer runs its odds through a random number generator, and you get instant results on your bet’s performance. It’s that simple.

How big is the virtual sports betting market currently?

As of 2022, the virtual sports betting market is valued at around $9 billion globally, up from $8.45 billion in 2021. Though it’s only a fraction of the size of the real sports betting market, virtual sports betting definitely had a steep upwards trajectory after launching a little over a decade ago.

That’s because its market enjoyed a meteoric rise during the COVID-19 lockdowns when people couldn’t go anywhere for betting and real sports halted. Those who wanted the thrill of betting turned towards virtual sports betting, and most of them got hooked on how fast things go. A virtual game finishes in a few minutes, compared to real games that can take over an hour.

There isn’t an accurate player base count right now, but it must be sizable if it grew an industry into the billions within a decade. Virtual sports betting might not dethrone real sports betting anytime soon, but it sure is contributing to massive profit margins for operators.