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Game On

Caesars event combines casinos and video gamers

Game On

Experts have been predicting the convergence of casino slot players with video game players—think Nintendo, Playstation, Wii, Halo, Warcraft, etc.—for years. But it hasn’t happened. The younger generation seems to be more drawn to table games, as proven in Las Vegas in the youth-oriented casinos, Hard Rock and the Palms.

But a recent event at Caesars Atlantic City demonstrated that there is more in common than you might think. Don Marrandino, the president of Caesars’ Eastern Division, agreed to present the first IGN Pro League tournament recently, bringing thousands of “gamers” to the Boardwalk. He says it worked very well.

“It was very interesting,” he says. “We hosted a wide variety of people from all over the country—NBA players and people from all walks of life. We had thousands of people from all around the world in town for this event.”

David Ting, the founder of IGN Pro League, says casinos were his preferred venue.

“Competitive game play is long,” he says. “It’s three to four days, 12 to 18 hours each day. People will get bored watching it all the time if there’s not something else to do. Caesars and Atlantic City were perfect locations for this event. Great food, shopping and a casino gave us more of an entertainment venue. It’s better than a convention center where there’s nothing else but the games.”

Ting says professional game play—or “e-sports”—started in Korea about a decade ago, but is spreading quickly around the country. He says there are a few players—mostly Koreans—who earn six-figure incomes by playing games professionally, but there are quite a few U.S. players who make up to $25,000 a year from the games.

“We brought these players to Atlantic City, and the results at the event give them points to the championship,” he explains. “But we also have open competition for amateurs, and that was very popular. The winner was a relatively unknown player from France, so our clientele is clearly international.”

There were more than 1,000 fans in the Circus Maximus theater for the final two rounds, and the early rounds were presented in Bally’s ballroom adjacent to Caesars.

Marrandino saw the opportunity to host the players in the casino as well.

“We integrated our live poker with it,” he says. “In addition, I watched some of the gamers migrate to the slot machines, so we got some decent play at both the tables and the slots.”

Ting points out that some of the premier gamers are also professional poker players, so the synergy is already there.

“The players were definitely playing slot machines, but poker is very popular too, given their competitive nature,” says Ting. “The favorite games were slots, poker and craps. It’s very natural for gamers who play online poker to use this as their event to get recognition in both areas. It really brings them out of their shells.”

Ting is negotiating with several casinos to offer other events, and plans to return the event to Caesars Atlantic City next year.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.