Advance deposit wagering on the Internet is a sterile experience. A bettor digitally interacts with a screen depicting tedious wagering information. Being at an actual racetrack is usually a much richer involvement because of the surroundings. However, this advantage will narrow owing to rapid advancements in virtual reality.
Grounded reality refers to the natural and physical world, whereas technology-based virtual reality denotes immersive experiences such as video games, flight simulators, and social networking sites. Likewise, advance deposit wagering is a virtual reality and so is the Jockey Club’s proposed free-to-play betting game for educating bettors.
Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson are the founders of virtual reality research centers at the University of California and Stanford University, respectively. Their 2011 book Infinite Reality demonstrates the phenomenon that “The brain often fails to differentiate between virtual experiences and real ones.” People who have watched 3-D action movies know the feeling.
Blascovich and Bailensen project that revenues from online gambling sites are likely to surpass revenues from physical casinos, partly because of progress in creating realistic virtual casinos. They explain: “While Vegas casino environments have physical limits, virtual ones can present any scene imaginable. One can gamble in the Louvre, underwater in the Great Barrier Reef, even on the moon. One can sit down to play blackjack with their favorite movie star as the dealer. Casinos will be stacked with audiences who cheer at players’ victories and gorgeous men and women who cling to their sides… Given an arsenal of virtual tools, casino owners might be able to build virtual havens gamblers will never want to leave.”
An important finding of the 2011 Jockey Club-sponsored McKinsey & Company study is that neophytes are apt to be intimidated and confused by online pari-mutuel wagering. In response, one can imagine a virtual reality racetrack–combining the best elements of racing’s most fan-friendly venues–in which a bettor’s avatar (a virtual character controlled by a person) is assisted by an expert agent (a virtual character controlled by a computer program) in handicapping and wagering.
Thus Amy in Alaska can escape a frigid January afternoon by logging on to a virtual racetrack modeled after Keeneland in the Springtime, where her avatar can mingle with the crowd and wager on a potpourri of real-time races from around the globe. This virtual racetrack won’t be plagued by complaints about customer service and food. Amy will be guided through the intricacies of handicapping and betting by an expert agent applying the precepts of Beyer or Crist and, if she chooses, looking like one of them.
Forbes magazine reports that “virtual characters are playing a growing role in online sales and marketing.” Advance deposit wagering websites could use them right now. Moreover, offering lifelike virtual racetracks may not be too far in the future, as demonstrated by the immersive video games already available and the authentic-feeling experiences being crafted by virtual reality doyens.
Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business
Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.