At the eSports and Casino Resorts conference in Las Vegas in October, the gaming industry finally got down to the nuts and bolts about how eSports can become a niche for gaming operators that will create revenue and excitement, as well as attracting the elusive millennial demographic.
The Downtown Grand in Las Vegas is one casino that has long been bullish on eSports. Downtown Grand executives are less interested in adding to or transitioning their current lineup of slot games into skill-based machines, but has created a separate eSports parlor. The Downtown Grand’s vision is to become a destination for eSports enthusiasts, as a way to increase foot traffic and generate non-gaming revenue for the property and create an environment where eSports fans might wager on matches in the casino’s sports book.
It’s a wholly different approach, but one that has paid some early dividends for the few casinos like Downtown Grand willing to take the plunge and cater to eSports fans.
Downtown Grand has already hosted major eSports events in a dedicated games room, along with hosting its own weekly eSports events. Its
eSports lounge is a work in progress. The lounge is about to move to a third location in the property, this time off the casino floor in a more focused area. It seems the eSports players were distracted by the noise of the nearby slot machines, so now they’ll be on their own.
The Downtown Grand’s website now features an eSports section, promoting upcoming events and highlighting the weekly winners of the casino’s eSports contests.
This “go big or go home” attitude is how Seth Schorr, CEO of Downtown Grand, believes you win over the eSports crowd. At G2E 2016, Schorr relayed his belief that to win over the eSports crowd, you need to be sincere. It’s not enough to simply host an event; you need to go all-in and create a gamer-friendly environment.
At October’s eSports conference, casino operators were presented with many options for enticing eSports gamers to their properties. From eSports tournaments to daily head-to-head competitions and the possibility to interact with
eSports celebrities—who in many instances are more recognizable to their fans that real sports stars—eSports can move the needle in a casino environment just by increased visitation.
The opinion that eSports enthusiasts were not gamblers was dispelled by many experts at the conference. Some of them pointed to the recent scandals in “skins betting,” the wagering of game pieces, vibrant colors and other items that go along with eSports games. Even though the items are essentially worthless, millions of dollars changed hands in trying to acquire them via wagering.
When it comes to betting on eSports, conference attendees learned of jurisdictions where it is currently legal. But the hurdles of adding eSports betting to the menu of wagering options at U.S. sports books are many and varied. Regulators must be convinced that the games are transparent and above board. In addition, some eSports professionals are well under 21, so the viability of adults wagering on actions of children will also be called into question.
But one thing was evident at the eSports conference. It’s an issue that is only going to increase in interest as more and more casino executives strive to find the bridge to the millennial generation.