For those who remember when sports betting involved paper slips and physical books, the advent of online sports betting may have seemed transformational enough. But now, the future is turning to virtual reality and its role in bets.
William Hill has recently announced a move into the virtual reality space after teaming up with Unit9, the digital production company. The result is an innovative horse-racing prototype called ‘Get in the Race’. It takes the app experience further – combining it with the excitement of live betting, and the Google Cardboard viewer – with a virtual reality viewer, which allows the player to experience the race in a new, rich way, with real time data that is collected from the horses themselves using GPS tracers.
The result is incredibly futuristic. The players get to see the horse from the jockey’s own view, as though they were riding in the saddle themselves. As well as this new slant on the racing experience, the user gets to see a range of data on their racing horse – including their stride length, racing heart rate, remaining distance to run and the all-important race position.
The data for the VR experience has been gathered from a live race at Kempton Park, which has been used to recreate the events of the day to incredible accuracy.
The company’s director of development and innovation, Crispin Nieboer, has explained that William Hill is working hard to develop rich, engaging new ways to make the betting experience more exciting, and to prevent it from feeling ‘dry’. He explained that the objective is to enhance the existing thrill of the race, and provide a broader experience that is more akin to a Las Vegas style entertainment extravaganza than the basic utilitarian ‘win or lose’ scenario.
Creating a VR betting shop
The company is also looking at ways to make its betting shops more exciting by introducing VR headsets. Plans will also see race viewers have the opportunity to sit on top of devices that resemble a racehorse and experience realistic movements that are powered by data gathered from the chosen horse. In essence, they will be able to experience the physicality of the race as it happens – not just experiencing the race visually, but also physically, as though riding the horse for themselves.
Quite appropriately, this new app was unveiled at the Digital Festival in Shoreditch, which is perhaps the spiritual home of digital development. It signalled an exciting new movement into what could be the future of gaming and a move to take a traditional market to a newer, younger generation.
The betting shop of the future
The number of high street betting shops have almost halved in the past ten years. Conceptually, the image of a high street bookie is one that dates back to the 1960s, and they have failed to capture the imagination of a young, increasingly digitised audience in their existing format.
Online casino and betting models are helping to make the world of sports betting more relevant to today’s experience-focused young people, with many still enjoying big events which they will often attend in person and enjoy betting on. However, this move into virtual reality shows that there is scope to engage the so-called Millennials and upcoming Generation Z into a world of sports betting that they may not yet be aware of, nor particularly interested in.
Tomorrow’s betting shop looks set to be replaced by a 360 degree betting experience which can be accessed through a variety of means. Users are likely to enjoy placing bets on their app or online, and will attend large sporting events. Additionally, with the right experience draw in place, they may well complement this with time in a virtual reality-supported, augmented physical betting shop, where they can try out the latest high-tech VR equipment and ‘feel’ the event in a way that has never been possible before.
Of course, older fans of the races will say that this adrenaline rush was always a feature of attending sporting fixtures in person and having a flutter there and then, without gadgets and gizmos. But this draw to the thrill of the race – and the thrill of the bet – could be where the generations converge, even if one prefers to do it socially by a racetrack or a betting shop TV with friends, and if another prefers to do it wearing a headset and ‘living’ the race as though they were actually riding the horse.
Either way, for those betting companies prepared to invest in VR equipment and innovations, digital assets and a far more superior, attractive and welcoming high street physical presence, there is hope for the future of sports betting – and potentially a very attractive, lucrative future.