Special Report: The Popularity of Fantasy SportsPublished December 6, 2014 by Amir G
What is it that attracts millions of punters to play and wager on fantasy and virtual sports online?
When hearing of fantasy sports, one's imagination can run wild with images of dragon racing and elves competing in marksmanship tournaments. While that could certainly be a cool idea, upon a closer examination fantasy sports is revealed to be every bit like the real-life sports that it imitates – aside from actually taking place in the real world. The popularity of fantasy sports cannot be denied: In the US alone the number of fantasy sports players is estimated at around 25 to 30 million. This begs two important questions: What is fantasy sports and why does it appeal to so many players?
History of Fantasy Sports
The roots of fantasy sports are rooted in American history, when in the 1950s-1960s US baseball fans would build fictional rosters of baseball players with which they competed in fictional leagues according to how the real life players performed. One of the serious catalysts for fantasy sports came in the 1981 Major League Baseball strike when sports journalists actually reported about a fantasy baseball league dubbed "La Rotisserie" over a restaurant where it was centered.
The 1980s saw fantasy sports becoming more popular with sports fans and by the mid 1990s the field had a strong grasp on American public life with the strong entrance of the internet to peoples' lives. There were special magazines dedicated to fantasy sports, columns in major newspapers as well as websites. Alongside baseball there were fantasy sports leagues for basketball, football, hockey and more.
The Appeal of Fantasy Sports
The very core of fantasy sports hasn't changed since its conviction in the 1950s. Players build fantastical team rosters in accordance to the rules of the specific fantasy league, and these teams compete against other fantasy teams. An important drawing point for fantasy sports is the ability given to players to act as true sports manager, something which is also simulated in popular PC games. In fantasy sports competitors are required to consider different facts and statistics as the season goes on, creating a demanding challenge which at the same time is also very fun.
The actual fantasy dimension of this field also plays a part: Sports fans can take their favorite players and teams to create that which did not happen on the actual pitch. Another reason why fantasy sports is so big in the US is that it is legal, because according to the the notorious Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) it is a game of skill. Many eyebrows are raised on why fantasy sports are legal while real sports betting is not.
Virtual Sports Betting
As a phenomena, fantasy sports in its American version needs to be differentiated from what is often called virtual sports and is common in Europe. Simply put, virtual sports simulate actual sporting events staying as close as possible to how they're conducted in real-life. Intricate software lets these simulations take into consideration a great many variables which affect the outcomes just as they would affect the real competition. Virtual sports betting features vary between different operators.
The virtual sports offering at online bookmaker bet365 Sports is a good example for the industry standard. At any time, punters can wager on horse races, greyhound races, motoring races, cycling races, tennis and football. These events take place every few minutes and they offer punters betting markets with updated odds which are very similar to their real-life counterparts. The competitions themselves are broadcasted to punters with realistic graphics and commentary which one could easily mistake for real-life. With their popularity, it'll be interesting to see where fantasy and virtual sports are taken in the future as technology progresses.