When online gambling enthusiasts in New Jersey woke up on Wednesday of last week, they found a brand-new iGaming option known as virtual sports betting up and running for the first time.
PlaySugarHouse.com, an online casino operated by Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive, launched its virtual sports betting products on November 24 through its primary website and mobile app.
Designed by London-based iGaming firm Inspired Gaming, the selection of virtual sports betting games currently on offer at PlaySugarHouse.com includes Rush Horses, Rush Greyhounds, Rush Soccer, Rush Motorcycles, and Rush Cars.
When wagering on these virtual sports betting games, players assess odds on various races or matches as they would in a traditional sportsbook, before selecting a side to back. From there, a random number generator is used to dictate the results of a given race or match, while bettors sit back and watch the action unfold onscreen. At the conclusion, winning wagers are settled instantly, while losing bets are claimed by the house.
The racing-based games enable bettors to back “Win,” “Place,” and “Show” wagers, while the soccer game offers a full complement of options including simple match betting, exact score, total goals, Over / Under, first and last team to score, and the half-time result.
But according to Rush Street Interactive president Richard Schwartz – who recently spoke with the The Associated Press (AP) to announce the games’ approval by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) – virtual sports betting is only designed to simulate actual races or sporting events:
“It’s computer-generated, and not based on any current active live sports event, so it’s not legally considered sports betting.”
In comments made to the AP, Robert Moncrief – who serves as deputy chief of the Technical Services Bureau at the NJDGE – classified virtual sports betting along with slot machines, owing to their use of a random number generator to dispense results.
That distinction is especially important given the current federal ban on land-based sports betting, which has been prohibited by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. Under the terms of PASPA, sportsbook operations and associated betting products are permitted in only four states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana), but New Jersey is currently pursuing several challenges to the law.
Voters there authorized a sports betting referendum in 2011, which was eventually passed by the legislature as the Sports Wagering Act. Governor Chris Christie signed the act into law, but a resulting spate of lawsuits filed by professional and collegiate sports leagues – collectively known as Christie vs. NCAA et al – has worked its way to the United States Supreme Court.
With the Court scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on December 4, and most legal observers giving New Jersey an even money chance to secure its desired repeal or amendment of PASPA, Schwartz told the AP that virtual alternatives are an asset for casino operators preparing for a newly legalized brick and mortar sportsbook industry:
“You can acquire a database of people with an interest in sports betting.”
The NJDGE approval marked the first time that U.S. regulators signed off on virtual sports betting for online play, but Inspired Gaming products have been available in Nevada’s brick and mortar casinos since last year.
The virtual alternatives are also quite popular among European bettors, and per Schwartz, PlaySugarHouse.com is optimistic that New Jersey’s gambling community will embrace them as well:
“We expect the same results in the New Jersey market.
Virtual sports betting is used effectively to fill in time between races and in time periods where there are no real-time sporting events.”