William Hill brings virtual horse racing to Las Vegas sports books

With world-class horse racing looming at Del Mar and Saratoga, it seems odd to be writing about virtual racing. But this new make-believe racing product is being field-tested in Las Vegas.

William Hill Virtual Racing is available to bet at two of its locations — the Plaza and Silver Sevens race books.

If you want to see what the product looks like, go to youtube.com and search for William Hill Virtual Racing. You then can click on a sample race for full effect.

Since the race is virtual, there are no Daily Racing Form past performances to study.

The wagering menu consists of win, place, show, exacta and trifecta.

Retired track announcer Tom Durkin calls the race that includes eight to 12 animated horses. When the race is over, prices are posted just like any simulcast feed in a race book.

A race is run every five minutes.

Virtual Racing has been offered for years in its English bet shops by William Hill.

But to bring this product to Nevada, it must pass the stringent regulations of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Since the results of Virtual Racing are randomly generated, it plays more like a slot machine. There is no skill advantage other than if you understand pari-mutuel odds.

You will know that favorites win more often than long shots, but also pay less.

To me, this is a modern day version of the old Sigma Derby, except on steroids.

Last time I looked, there were only two Sigma Derby machines left in Las Vegas — at the D Las Vegas and the MGM Grand.

Sigma Derby was a quarter unit machine that had five mechanical horses race around an oval. The payoffs were based on a quinella finish of the first- and second-place horses.

Is there a chance Virtual Racing could cut into the real horse racing handle in Nevada? I think that’s a long shot.

The comparison I would make is asking a poker player about the difference between playing War and Texas Hold ’em. One game is random luck. The other is, if you are skilled and play smarter than your opponents, you will win their money.

The smarter a horseplayer is, the luckier he seems to get. And with that in mind, I’ll borrow the catch phrase of South Point horse handicapper Patrick McQuiggan: I’ll see you in the cashier’s line of a local race book.

DEATH THREAT TO ANNOUNCER

Santa Anita Park track announcer Michael Wrona has received death threats from an Arcadia, California, man, according to a story Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times.

The person was a big fan of former Santa Anita announcer Trevor Denman and threatened on a website to kill his replacement, Wrona.

Arcadia police have identified the man and interviewed him, but said, “We are comfortable that he is not a threat at this time.”

Santa Anita management is not taking the threat lightly.

The person has been barred from the track, and Wrona is escorted by two security guards when he arrives at and leaves Santa Anita.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can get his Santa Anita picks by emailing him at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

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