Sports Betting Goes Virtual With Video Gaming

Online gambling has long been the forefront of the industry, with free bets offered for virtual poker and remote-play slots as a way to lure in new customers, and sports betting has moved full force into online venues - more prop bets are made in NFL games via the Internet than any other method.

A recent development in free bets online, tracks the rise of competitive video game. The field has gained legitimacy after a deal brokered between EA Sports, the publishers of the Madden football franchise, and Virgin Gaming, Richard Branson's online casino and gambling venture.

Originally put together for Madden '11, and recently renewed for Madden '14, the NFL-branded video game franchise is now a hot free bets option for online gamers, and one of the more popular online betting ventures. Most Madden online wagering comes from "pay to enter" tournaments, where customers pay the buy-in fee, and play, with a portion of the entry fee going towards the prize pool for the winner.

Available on all of the major console game packages, the process isn't just limited to Madden: it's also available for fans of EA Sports' FIFA license. In addition to ad-hoc buy-in tournaments, there are also regularly scheduled free bets online for sponsored tournaments, with supporters and partners skewing heavily toward media that caters to young men. Maxim Magazine sponsors a regular tournament, as does FHM. Sponsored tournaments usually waive or deeply discount the buy-in fee, and offer lifestyle prizes, like a trip to the Super Bowl, or a weeklong getaway in Las Vegas.

This isn't small potatoes - there are over 300,000 Virgin Gaming subscribers connected to Madden '14. Virgin gaming's stable of supported titles with online tournament support includes the NBA 2K14 and Halo franchises. The FIFA Internet World Cup regularly draws close to a million participants, and is easily the largest Internet gaming tournament in the world.

Virgin Gaming's tournament setup is meant to reduce barriers to entry. Players from around the world can usually find someone online ready to play a head-to-head match, and matches play quickly enough that they're not a major time sink. While EA Sports brings the brand names of the two most popular sporting franchises, it's Virgin Gaming's experience at seamlessly running for-pay online tournaments that makes this partnership work.

That experience translates into better security for gamers. Tournament participants have their game play monitored to prevent cheating, and there are safeguards to protect customers against compulsive gambling: The maximum amount of money a player can load into their account is $500 per week, without direct intervention with a customer service agent.

This is an online gambling venture that shows lots of growth potential. The Las Vegas sports-betting industry books about $2 billion per year on prop bets and sports wagering; while there are no firm numbers about online casino gambling, it's estimated that at least triple that amount is wagered online, in large part due to convenience and easy access.

The combination of competitive head-to-head video game playing and online gambling looks to be a safe gamble for Richard Branson, and may blossom into a tens-of-billions per year industry within the next five years.

This blog post was contributed by Bookies Free Bets, check out their blog to keep updated with free bets online news and sport betting news.