- Sports worldwide have been brought to a near standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Bookmakers have been forced to get very creative to keep their betting boards full.
- Many of these ‘new additions’ could become a permanent part of the betting menu.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown of the sports world has been a difficult and unprecedented time for bookmakers and bettors. In many ways, it was completely unfathomable for a sportsbook to be open for business but with little or nothing on the board. In a normal year there are just a few days without any sports available for betting.
To their credit, bookmakers and other sports betting professionals have demonstrated impressive creativity to keep their odds boards as full as possible. The result has been an influx of unique betting options including politics, entertainment along with a variety of sports that exist well out of the mainstream. After the sports shutdown occurred table tennis became a major betting event at Nevada sportsbooks. That was only the beginning.
Other sports that have ended up on the betting board at sportsbooks around the world have included competitive eating, marble racing, virtual sports including the extremely popular eNASCAR virtual racing circuit and even the WNBA Draft. And don’t be surprised if some of these betting events added to the board out of necessity become a permanent part of the wagering mix.
Sportradar is the world leader in providing sports data and among many other things they provide statistical information to most of the world’s bookmakers. They’ve recently announced that their sports content and coverage has grown 11% over last year despite the COVID-19 worldwide shutdown. The number of betting events is up by 11%, the live odds coverage up over 30% and live data up over 20%. Here’s what Sportradar managing director of betting and gaming Warren Murphy says about it:
“Interestingly, the number of games we are covering is massively up on this time last year. The reason is that many of the games are a much shorter duration than soccer, which is the dominant betting sport globally.”
A more interesting announcement came from Sportradar which announced what they’re calling ‘Simulated Reality’. They’re claiming that it will be a new level of virtual sport realism and based on the description it sure sounds like it. The plan is to play the remaining fixtures of top leagues from Germany, England and Spain with games taking place on the original date and with the original kickoff time as the ‘real’ schedule. The games will be a full 90 minutes long and will differ from the traditional virtual sports platform as it won’t require any integration–the virtual game will be played and sportsbooks will take action on it just as they would any over event.
According to Sportradar, the first weekend’s simulated games were broadcast by 250 operators worldwide. In addition, Esports betting has also seen significant growth as has ‘non-traditional’ sports such as table tennis.
Sportradar chief executive officer Carsten Koerl had this to say:
“During this time, we have been able to quickly adapt to change and constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the products and services we are offering. We’re pleased to have been able to utilise our technological expertise, comprehensive sports data and sports partnerships across the world quickly to continue to help our customers deliver entertainment and engagement with additional live content and coverage.”
There’s one compelling reason why you can expect these ‘temporary’ fill in sports to become a fixture on betting boards. Sportsbooks worldwide don’t want to be caught in this situation again. If they cultivate a betting following for table tennis and drone racing during times where all sports are operating they’ve got a fail safe mechanism should a large scale shutdown of worldwide sporting events ever happen again.