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According to the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority, millennials accounted for 38% of Las Vegas Visitors in 2017. The issue is that casinos are having a hard time monetizing that traffic as millennials tend to gamble far less than their elders. In a town built off the back of gamblers, that presents an issue for casino operators. Enter Esports.
Vegas resorts are devoting more and more square footage to non-gambling activities, such as Esports, in an effort to attract a younger crowd and get them to part with their cash. So what are Esports? For those unfamiliar, Esports are comparable to the NFL or MLB for video gamers and Esports athletes play video games competitively at the highest level. Esports arenas, which are catching on nationwide, host major tournaments while also organizing amateur events and allowing fans to pay to play casually by the hour.
Paul Chamberlain, Chief Creative Officer of Allied Esports, designers of Luxor’s new Esports Arena, spoke at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas and was quick to point out that the arena is “not an arcade”. Instead, gaming events at the Luxor should be viewed as a premier entertainment option. Backers of the Esports trend on the strip think video gaming events could be a draw similar to a boxing match or concert as opposed to a place to stash the kids while you shoot dice.
According to Newzoo, total Esports revenues have been on a sharp upward trajectory and are likely to exceed $900 million in 2018.
A large number of education sessions at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) focused on Esports and the emerging market for this brand of entertainment. The bulk of the conversation centered around the desire for bookmakers to take bets on the outcomes of major Esports events. John English, Partner and Managing Director of Sports & Technology at Global Market Advisors pointed out that an estimated $6.7 billion is wagered on Esports annually, much of that wagering occurring offshore or in the shadows. To demonstrate Esports growing relevance, English pointed out how Esports is also featured as a major sport on ESPN’s website. The point being, there’s a lot of revenue potential.
Currently, gamblers in Las Vegas are unable to place a legal bet on Esports, however, English thinks that will change in the future. At G2E, he compared Esports today to MMA fighting prior to UFC emerging as the primary platform for competition. Before UFC asserted it’s dominance in MMA, there were countless leagues and styles of fighting. There was no central governance or regulation of the sport making it a risky proposition to take action for casino sportsbooks.
Today, Esports has a number of popular titles such as Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends, etc and these titles are owned by various publishers. Currently, there is not enough regulation, governance or oversight of the sport and because of that Vegas books (and their regulators) are uncomfortable taking action on competition outcomes. Specifically, books are concerned about match fixing, hacking (attacking an opponent’s computer to slow performance) and the inability to test the code as the game title owners are unwilling to turn that data over.
So if the public can’t bet on it, how are Las Vegas Casinos capitalizing on the popularity of Esports?
Luxor recently opened a 30,000 square foot multi-level Esports Arena complete with a 50-foot video wall, gaming stations and unique dining options. Access to the facility is free, however if you want to play games, packages start at $10 for an hour, $18 for 2 hours all the way up to $125 for 24 hours of gaming activity.
The Esports arena at Luxor hosts major events and amateur competitions in addition to hourly gaming packages. Notably, Luxor’s arena hosted an April 2018 event headlined by Esports star Ninja which proved successful, earning rave reviews from the gaming community. Additionally, Ninja set a personal high of 644,815 live stream viewers on streaming platform Twitch.
Amateur events at Luxor’s Esports Arena are open to the public and generally involve a tournament fee that goes to the prize pool. Details surrounding upcoming events at the arena can be found on their Facebook page.
Best yet, you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy the Esports Arena at Luxor. The Arena has a bar, and you don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy a cocktail or 2. Paying homage to video games of the past, Esports Arena has a variety of free to play vintage gaming consoles ranging from Atari to Super Nintendo that anyone is able to pick up and play making for a fun, casual night out.
Above the vintage gaming area is a chandelier made of vintage gaming controllers (pictured below).
The arena itself is an impressive sight. The gaming stations and stage pictured below looks more like a high tech mission control center than a venue for video game competition. As a non-gamer stopping by to check things out, I was impressed by the openness of the staff and the utter lack of intimidation felt due to lack of knowledge. The Arena is open to the entire spectrum of gamer from the most casual to professional.
Will Esports play a large role in the future of Las Vegas? Who knows. Whether this form of entertainment appeals to the “traditional” Vegas guest or not, there is a huge (and growing) pot of money out there that is up for grabs. Here’s to hoping Vegas gets a piece of it.
Looking for a traditional sport activity in Vegas? Check out our review of Topgolf which is located behind MGM Grand.