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.


  1. “Advance deposit wagering on the Internet is a sterile experience. ”

    Online transactions usually are. The smart money uses live Linux CD’s to access online accounts… for security reasons.

    “Being at an actual racetrack is usually a much richer involvement”

    Yes. Nothing can replace the view of the San Gabriel Mountains from the grandstand at Santa Anita. The horse track is an escape from the concrete jungle, the family, the job. One notable exception is Del Mar where young professionals who are property or business owners go for recreation and to support the local economy.

    “People who have watched 3-D action movies know the feeling.”

    I saw ‘Avatar’ in 3D…my head and eyes starting hurting 15 minutes into the flick and about 8 hours afterward.

    “neophytes are apt to be intimidated and confused by online pari-mutuel wagering.”

    That’s because the websites are poorly designed…and confusing.

    “progress in creating realistic virtual casinos.”

    The reality is that smart money buys a 5 dollar phone with a 25 dollar prepay card and ditches the land line. The smart money finds a wireless hot spot and surfs for free…like at the local library where it’s nice and quiet. The connection speeds are low and the latency is high. Idiots might pay for TV.

    “Thus Amy in Alaska”

    Amy is probably still on a dial-up connection which at 40-kbs is good enough for web surfing and online account management.

  2. Bill Shanklin says


    Today’s Wall Street Journal (Jan. 7, 2011) has an article that is related to part of what you wrote. It is titled “Cutting the Cord on Cable.” Tells how to buy devices that allow one to go cable free.

  3. Waking up the Racing World says

    You continue to overthink the meshing of horse racing as we know it with the (rest of) today’s population.

    The Great Barrier Reef has exactly nothing to do with it. Why concern yourself with inconsequential backdrop when so far you have been unwilling to address realities which have long been as near as the palm of your hand. Pari-mutuel wagering on (ANY game of skill) for which such wagers have originated from numerous bricks and mortar sites should long ago have entailed each of those sites doing everything possible to effect more handle from those in attendance. Stop looking at the Great Barrier Reef for your answers, and look at the palm of your hand, which has been sitting right in front of you for years!!!

    This completely basic reality would have the impact of inspiring hapless long-time regulars to suddenly contribute more handle despite the same amount of income. It would also have the impact of allowing brand new customers to be competitive from the moment they pulled two dollars from their wallets at the windows!!!

    You simply CAN NOT match that sort of an ‘edge’ in other gambling venues (wherein luck is the sole determining factor as to who wins or who loses, and/or wherein the ‘house’ loses each time the customer wins).

    When you were a child, of course this obvious game-changer couldn’t have been implemented at Bowie, where everybody in the wagering audience was in the same venue.

    Furthermore, casinos and state lotteries can’t implement such concepts on their games, because they are mostly based on pure luck, AND because the house ‘loses’ when the customer ‘wins’.

    Now that horse racing has (20 years ago) reached a point where it brings together the rare combination of

    (a) Parimutuel wagering
    (b) A game of skill
    (c) Smaller venues feeding wagers into continent-wide pools

    … there is ZERO EXCUSE for your not fully endorsing blatant localized assistance by each individual simulcasting venue which is visible to all in attendance.

    Eventually that could evolve to settings wherein people who knew or cared absolutely nothing about horse racing could show up at a local restaurant for lunch and put their money on house suggestions without needing to be intimidated by it all. And THAT would be how you spark their intrigue.

    The interfacing between track management and brand new customers this way must be blatant. It must greatly exceed the crap that now pretends to be all-encompassing guidance such as “how to handicap” and “how to wager”.

    As with any business, the path toward success entails DOING SOMETHING for your CUSTOMERS!! For far too many running the horse racing world in the present, it would be their first time filling such a role.