Similar to the rise of eSports betting, drone racing could be the next major betting market set to take the gambling world by storm. As the Drone Racing League gears up for their first Drone Racing World Championships in October, bookies plan to keep a close eye of the budding sport and its potential as a lucrative betting market.
Despite its relative youth, the drone racing community is looking to establish itself with quality competitors, governing bodies and leagues, as well as premier competitions, while bookies are beginning to look for ways to make drone racing betting the next major market.
First-person view drone racing or FPV drone racing involves competitors racing unmanned aerial vehicles - most commonly known as drones - against other drones for competition. The drones are equipped with cameras used to provide a live stream of the drone's first-person perspective directly to virtual reality goggles the pilot is wearing.
The stream provides an experience simulating as if the pilot was actually inside the vehicle piloting, a rush many can surely imagine. Virtual reality as a whole seems to be knocking at the door as the Oculus Rift looks to push virtual reality mainstream.
Quoted in an ESPN article, drone pilot Ryan Gury explains the draw of drone racing and virtual reality in general:
"I think anybody with any imagination gets into it. You defy gravity. You feel like a superhero."
But with all the excitement about driving the drones, some newcomers fail to realize that enjoying the competition from a fan's view can be equally as enjoyable as driving the drones and that's what has bookies buzzing.
If you're familiar with American cinema, think Stars Wars' pod racing! The competitions take place in major arenas or in obstacle-style courses like warehouses or complicated building structures and involve the drones racing through hoop-like check points as they circle the stadium/track. The rings or checkpoints are similar to video games that required vehicles pass through rings, with each only activating once the previous ring had been driven/flown through.
The biggest stadium to host a competition to date was the NFL's Miami Dolphins's stadium for the Drone Racing League's first ever competition. The event was closed to the public but filmed and the footage was released to much acclaim:
Drone races involve high-speed vehicle racing with the potential for heinous crashes, gravity-defying feats and exciting competition. It's a digitally-driven Formula 1 or NASCAR, if you will, which makes it easy to see why even spectators of this sport are so intrigued.
Drone racing has a few pioneers to look toward who set a great example of how to quickly become a major betting market. Horse racing, Formula 1 and NASCAR betting, for examples, were all pioneers establishing themselves as major sport betting markets despite some detesting their lack of being a "sport" due to the machine/horse's influence.
Now it's the digitally based competitions, like eSports and drone racing, that will have to prove their worth as a sport. Fortunately, drone racing took a similar path to validity eSports did, attracting major crowds and even bigger sponsors and investors, and in doing so catching bookies' attention.
eSports struggled to gain interest from European bookies for years despite a growing Asian following but when giant, international sponsors like Pepsi got involved in eSport competitions featuring $1 million purses, bookies began to take interest. Now, eSports betting is offered by most major online bookies around the world.
So it came as no surprise the first major stadium to host a drone racing competition was home of the NFL team owned by Stephen Ross. Why? Well Stephen Ross and his sports and entertainment investment firm invested $1 million to start the Drone Racing League in 2015.
With major sponsors and investors beginning to lineup for the sport, and the Drone Racing League and the Drone Racing World Championships poised to push drone racing towards international recognition, why haven't you begun seeing major bookies offering odds on drone racing?
Despite's it rapid growth in popularity, drone racing events have yet to receive odds from major bookies. The Drone Racing League and its Drone Racing World Championships have the most potential as markets but will need more time and establishment before bookies can actually offer realistic odds.
Industry-leading bookmaker, Ladbrokes, has certainly noticed the buzz and potential surrounding drone racing but has no plans to make a move in terms of offering odds until at least after the first major championship. Ladbrokes' PR Manager, Alex Donohue, explained:
"Let’s see how the first race goes."
A representative from BettingExperts.com, Gregory Slugin, expressed bookies need time to allow a sport to establish itself before experts can form realistic odds (the major reason drone racing doesn't have odds yet):
"To offer odds or any forecasts, bookmakers need to fully understand a discipline and have some statistics. As soon as drone racing passes from a kind of show to being a regular professional discipline with its own federation, clear rules and contest terms, established teams, race history etc., one could consider betting on the races."
So despite no odds currently on offer for the Drone Racing League or Drone Racing World Championships, drone racing betting hopefuls should be optimistic this time next year, major players like Ladbrokes will be offering odds on the 2nd ever Drone Racing World Championships.
While drone racing continues to establish itself as betting-market worthy, you might want to check out a few punts on a like-sport, Formula 1. To give you an idea of what it will be like to bet on drone racing in the future, head over to Ladbrokes Sports today to begin betting Formula 1!