New Jersey is getting virtual sports betting before actual sports betting.

This past week, sports bettors had special reason to give thanks when NJ’s PlaySugarHouse online casino launched virtual sports betting on soccer and horse racing. Virtual sports bets will also be taken soon at Golden Nugget, Betfair, and Resorts. A press release is available here.

In an interview with Legal Sports Report, Leap Gaming CEO Yariv Lissauer said virtual sports is an excellent platform because it’s not tied down to a particular professional or racing season.

“It’s so realistic and entertaining, as well as being seen as a premium product with a fresh flow of content around the clock,” Lissauer said.

SugarHouse’s two sports — soccer and horse racing — function like EA-style video games. The graphics are clear and fluid and the announcing/color commentary is reminiscent of Madden or FIFA.

Virtual horse racing in New Jersey

The following demo of a horse race shows you how realistic the races are from post to finish line:

As you can see, you get a relatively realistic race experience with adequate — if not a bit stilted — announcing. Finishes are clearly shown from multiple angles. Race finishes are randomized.

Virtual soccer games online

In the demo we previewed, SugarHouse’s virtual soccer match featured Spain and Italy. Pre-game screens reveal starting lineups and the betting lines across a variety of books.

The game gets underway and is condensed into scoring opportunities and goals:

There are a variety of pre-game, score-based bets to be made including ties.

Multiple industry experts say that SugarHouse plans on releasing three more virtual sports betting platforms:

  • dog racing
  • motor racing
  • motorcycle racing

Virtual sports betting already a big deal in Europe

Virtual betting first made an appearance in Vegas via William Hill, which introduced two sites. William Hill’s US virtual sports betting has, at the time of publishing, grown to nine sites in Vegas.

Pala was second to introduce virtual sports but only on social sites (free play). This may be Pala’s test run for real-money sports betting, should it be legalized when SCOTUS renders its decision on the NJ case next spring. William Hill boss Joe Asher has been quoted as saying virtual sports betting fills an obvious void.

“We see virtual mainly as a filler product,” William Hill US CEO Joe Asher said. “There’s less live horse racing content available these days, so virtual racing fills the void, particularly on slower days when the major tracks aren’t running.”

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How will legalized sports betting affect virtual sports betting in NJ?

With New Jersey just days away from oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, many believe the state will win its sports betting case and PASPA will be repealed. Sports betting will most certainly explode in New Jersey; MGM International already announced it’s building a $7 million sports book in Atlantic City even though SCOTUS has yet to hear the case.

There’s a good chance that virtual sports won’t face a steep decline because, as pointed out by William Hill’s Asher, it provides gamblers sports betting all hours of the day in peak and off-peak seasons.