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Will Virtual Football Betting Ever Get Close to its real life equivalent?


Sports betting has existed almost since the first sports were ever played. Ancient Romans and Greeks gambled on the outcome of gladiatorial matches in the arena an established the first Olympic Games. Modern sports betting as a regulated industry began in the middle of the twentieth century, when the first sportsbooks opened in Las Vegas casinos. Since that time, when people who wanted to place a wager on a live sporting event had to physically go to the casino, the industry has evolved almost beyond recognition. Today, bettors who wish to have a flutter on their home team or make a wager on any type of sporting event can do so from their own homes, or even from their smartphones, accessing any one of multiple online sportsbooks and casinos offering sports betting.

Those searching for the best place to make their bets can quickly browse to find the online sportsbook offering the best odds, promotional offers or other bonuses to maximise their chances of making more profit. A more recent evolution of the sports betting industry has been the introduction of virtual sports to the agenda. Now, even when there are no live sports events to bet on, which has been the case for large parts of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, punters can still indulge through placing wagers on esports or virtual sports.

Esports involves betting on the outcome of a competitive computer game. Some of the most popular versions of esports during lockdown have been those that replicate real life sports, such as virtual football. Betting on virtual football has become one of the more popular options for gamblers in the UK, with multiple websites offering this as a service. In an era where large swathes of the gambling industry have moved online, it makes sense that people are more willing to gamble on events that take place online as well as those happening in real life.

Virtual football games have been around for a long time in various formats, from some of the most simple and basic simulations to modern variations that recreate the look, sounds and atmosphere of a real game and feature realistic players and effects. Game developers are constantly striving to create virtual football games that come as close as possible to the real thing, which makes gambling on competitive events on these games almost as compelling as making a wager on the physical teams.

The UK is a nation of gamblers, with an estimated 65% of the adult population participating in gambling of some form. While the National Lottery, scratch cards and other lotteries are the most popular form of gambling, sports betting is the most popular after these. When looking at statistics for sports betting in the UK, no other sport can even come close to the popularity of football. Around 47% of all people who bet on sports in the UK bet on the football, when looking at the amount of money spent on sports wagers. With so many committed football gamblers, it makes sense that virtual football would enjoy increased appeal during a time when live games were suspended.

The coronavirus pandemic, or more specifically the measures implemented to help control the spread of the virus, left millions of people across the UK at home, with many temporarily out of work and with all live sporting events canceled. Rather than stop gambling on sports, punters turned in drives to esports. In March 2019, the average gross gambling yield for UK betting companies from esports was approximately £50,000. In May 2020, this figure leaped to £4.6 million. While esports cover wide range of computer and video games, some of the most popular were those that simulated real-life sports, particularly football.

Research has shown that now, virtual sports betting comes third in terms of revenue for bookmakers after football and horse racing. The unprecedented events of 2020 have certainly provided a huge boost for betting on virtual football, but even without the global pandemic, the popularity of the pastime was on the rise. Online football betting has long been a top choice for UK gamblers, and many sportsbooks have been offering virtual football as a further option for some time now, creating new opportunities for football fans to place wagers and gain a stake in the competition.

The sheer volume of people who like to wager on football in the UK makes it unlikely that betting on virtual football will overtake this any time soon. However, as people have had their eyes opened to the benefits of gambling on virtual football at a time when there were no other options available, it is certainly possible that many of those who have discovered this new outlet will continue to bet regularly. Esports in general are forecast as a growth market and virtual football has proven one of the more popular events among new converts to the genre, suggesting that people are attracted to the similarities between this and real-life sporting events.

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