Counter-Strikes and Taylor Swift

How many millennials do you know with thousands of dollars to throw around gambling in a casino? It's like marketing a car to 6-year-olds.

Counter-Strikes and Taylor Swift

I’m told that one of the hottest topics at next month’s Global Gaming Expo is going to be eSports, the latest wacky idea designed to draw a new generation of players who won’t have disposable income for another 10 years.

Seriously, how many millennials do you know with thousands of dollars to throw around gambling in a casino? I know I didn’t when I was 25. It took a couple of decades for paying-off-the-student-loan money to become gambling money, and I’m sure it’s worse these days.

But that’s OK—we’re going to spend millions now marketing to them, because hey, before you know it, it’s 2030, and we’ve missed our shot. It’s like marketing a car to 6-year-olds so they’ll want to drive it when they’re old enough.

Nevertheless, the industry continues to march to the millennial beat, the latest example being eSports, a truly mystifying attraction that asks me to fork over cash so I can sit and watch two kids with controllers assume the identities of characters in a huge video game and battle to the digital death.

You know, like I used to watch my kids do in the basement. For free.

I know, eSports are different, with professional leagues and video-game battles with grisly high-definition animation on big screens, and world-famous star players with pearl-handled controllers holstered for the next match, filling up stadiums with adoring, pimply-faced fans.

Hey, if I was a star video gamer, I’d sure have a holstered, pearl-handled controller. Unless they just play on their phones now. Do they? God, I’m old.

Anyway, for the casino industry, the potential benefits are obvious, which is to say there are a lot of things on which to place bets within the eSports universe, from the next character to lose a limb to which direction the brim on the oversized, sideways baseball cap on your favorite player’s head is pointed.

Wait, don’t they dress all hip-hop, with baggy clothes and bling and sideways hats? That’s how I’d dress if I was a star video gamer.

And you can’t blame me, if you look only at the names of some of the biggest star video gamers. There was a story on ESPN.com last month about a gambling scandal in which a group of star gamers allegedly hid their ownership in a betting site taking wagers on competitions involving the game “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.”

Wow, is that out already? I’m still mastering “Counter-Strike: Municipal Offensive.” I’d better start practicing.

In any event, according to ESPN.com, the players involved in the betting scandal are “three of YouTube and Twitch’s most popular gaming personalities.” Their names are Trevor “TmarTn” Martin, Thomas “ProSyndicate” Cassell and Josh “JoshOG” Beaver. Of course, if you scroll down to their pictures, they don’t look anything like their gangsta names. They look more like they were just heading down to the science lab after study hall.

By the way, YouTube and Twitch was one of my favorite cop shows of the ’70s.

Before we move on, let me say I’m excited to see how the casinos approach eSports, and whether it will continue to involve showroom or arena events like at the Downtown Grand in Las Vegas, events on big screens in special lounges, as machines on the slot floor, or all of the above.

Whatever it is, they’d better move quickly. In another dozen years, these millennials are going to have some serious money to spend.

Speaking of millennials, U.S. pop singer and noted millennial Taylor Swift popped up on the gambling screen last month, as the subject of wagers in China’s quasi-legal online betting market. Bettors on the Chinese online marketplace Taobao, which offers wagers cloaked as “insurance plans,” were betting on when Swift would break up with her boyfriend, the British actor Tom Hiddleston.

The last line was 2-to-1 on a breakup within periods ranging from six months to a year. The “Hiddleswift Insurance Plans” were going for one yan a piece, or 15 cents in the U.S.

OK, Taylor Swift’s love life is not exactly the kind of thing that would attract wagers from my own boomer generation, but hey, it might be another good way for casinos to attract the millennials. Maybe they can add a bonus wager on whether or not Swift and Katy Perry will actually get into a fistfight.

Hey, my wife leaves the People laying around.

How about a new eSports event that will attract millennials and boomers alike? That’s right. Taylor Swift vs. Katy Perry in an eSports match. Their avatars can be dressed up like superheroes.

Betting opens with Perry a 2-to-1 favorite. Place your bets, kids!