Nevada approves betting on virtual NASCAR races

Start your engines and place your bets -- Las Vegas is taking action on virtual NASCAR racing.

Nevada Gaming Control on Friday announced that the state's sportsbooks could offer betting on the 2020 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, beginning with this weekend's event from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway. It's the first time Nevada sportsbooks have been allowed to take bets on a virtual auto racing event.

The races feature stars including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer competing against other Cup Series regulars as well as drivers from other series on NASCAR's iRacing simulation platform.

The broadcasts of main-event races, such as Sunday's Food City Showdown (1 p.m. ET, Fox, Fox Sports 1) from virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, have been a hit. According to Nielsen Sports, last weekend's race from virtual Texas Motor Speedway drew a record 1.3 million viewers, the most ever for a televised esports event.

"The global interest in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has ranged far and wide and we continue to recognize the role this series is playing in providing sports fans worldwide with a much needed respite during the most challenging of times," Scott Warfield, NASCAR managing director of gaming, told ESPN.

Now, the Las Vegas betting market will be more involved. It's the first time Nevada sportsbooks have been allowed take bets on a virtual auto-racing event.

Timmy Hill, who is coming off a win last week at virtual Texas Motor Speedway, opened as the favorite this week, at 4-1 at William Hill U.S. sportsbooks in Nevada. Earnhardt Jr. is next at 13-2, followed by Garrett Smithley and William Byron who each opened at 7-1.

"I'd love to have it on the board," Matt Metcalf, head of Las Vegas sportsbook operator Circa Sports, told ESPN. "A million viewers last week ... people are paying attention."

Traditionally, Nevada regulators have been hesitant to allow betting on esports, but have become more accepting recently with sportsbooks scrambling for offerings during the coronavirus pandemic. In recent days, Nevada Gaming Control also approved wagering on esports Counter-Strike and 2020 ESL One Dota Los Angeles tournaments.

Nevada sportsbooks must notify patrons that the iRacing simulators and equipment used in the eNASCAR races might differ slightly, and that official rules must be posted on the event organizer's or sanctioning body's website.

DraftKings' sportsbook in West Virginia was the only U.S. sportsbook to offer wagering on last weekend's eNASCAR event.