Virtual Tennis Betting How Sportsbooks are Adapting to COVID-19

With the sports betting calendar being almost completely thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the sportsbook industry has been forced to look elsewhere to engage their customers, new and old. The latest effort comes from IMG Arena and The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) who have teamed up to create the first officially branded virtual tennis game ever, which they hope doubles as a tennis betting platform for needy sportsbooks.

Simulated virtual tennis matches hope to fill the void for those sports thirsty fans and bettors alike. IMG and the ATP aim to deliver “an authentic, fan-first experience” complete with official logos and official tournament names from the ATP Masters 1000 series.

“This is a landmark agreement for ATP Media at a challenging time,” said Mark Webster, CEO of ATP Media, the content arm of the tennis organization. “We are excited to be working with IMG Arena to deliver fans around the world innovative content and new ways to enjoy their favorite tennis tournaments. Together we are creating a compelling, always-on product that will boost and diversify our sports betting offering while helping to continue to further develop our international footprint.”

How does betting on virtual sports work?

Betting on virtual sports would work the same as live sports betting. Both have teams, or players in this instance, playing against each other and both have outcomes from those games. The games’ outcomes are there to be bet on and will be based on a set of AI algorithms that each individual sportsbook would be in charge of.

Each sportsbook is responsible for setting odds for matches, and bettors would be able to place their wagers based on the fictional aspects of each designated game. Betting trends, player profiles, and other intangibles will be presented to bettors, just like in real-life sporting events. The ATP and IMG Arena are setting up to allow for prop bets as well.

Offshore sportsbooks such as Bovada already feature an array of virtual sports betting, and they are expected to include this virtual tennis game.

The problem

The new betting product will only be available in states that have a current legal betting platform AND allow virtual sports wagering. There are currently ZERO states with a broad acceptance of virtual sports betting although Nevada made a move late last week to allow wagers and some Esport events That could possibly be a sign that some states are ready to relax their present rules in order to keep sportsbooks afloat and ultimately tax revenue coming in.

“Nevada Regulation 22.1201 of the “Race Books and Sports Pools” code says, “A virtual event shall not be approved … unless an approved gaming device is used to determine the outcome(s) and to display an accurate representation of the outcome(s) of the virtual event.”

As long as an electronic device determines the outcome, the sport/game will fall under these guidelines in the state of Nevada and will have to pass certain regulatory hurdles in order for it to be considered. That leaves virtual tennis out of the cold in all states for the time being.

What’s next?

Depending on how long the coronavirus quarantine lasts, there is a real possibility of other virtual sports coming to US sportsbooks soon, if and when individual states allow for such betting practices. Sportradar, for instance, has a solid relationship with Major League Baseball, FIFA, and UEFA and could soon follow in IMG’s footsteps in creating and implementing virtual sports betting on their sites.

IMG Arena already had a stable of virtual sports in their portfolio such as golf, motorsports, football, horse racing, greyhound racing, and cycling games to bring to the market. So, as long as live betting options include unfamiliar Russian and Ukrainian leagues, bettors and sportsbooks will continue to seek new and interesting ways to keep their clientele engaged.

Virtual sports may not be as good as the real thing but they will have to do for the foreseeable future. The virtual games are there, waiting on approval by states. Expect pressure from the Sportsbooks and the betting public to approve of some sort of virtual sport platform and for IMG Arena being right there to pounce when jurisdictions cave out of necessity.

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