Downtown Grand shooting for video game gambling
March 15, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
The Downtown Grand hotel and casino is trying to capitalize on the video-game craze.
DTG, located where the old Lady Luck once stood, recently opened an “eSports” lounge called the Downtown Underground.
Seth Schorr, chairman of Downtown Grand, views this as the perfect way to attract the Millennial Generation, generally defined as those in their 20s to mid-30s.
“The landscape of gambling is changing,” Schorr said. “It’s undeniable. The world is changing based on technology. Gambling is no different.
“As we see the way the younger audience approaches the casino, we realize that we have to keep Nevada relevant and keep gambling relevant by coming up with new ways for people to gamble.
“Competitive video games is one of the fastest growing technologies and businesses in the world. It’s only going to get bigger.”
The term “eSports” refers to those who play video games competitively. Downtown Grand is currently hosting video-game contests for them on Fridays and Saturdays.
It is all in anticipation of the day when casinos are allowed to offer their customers a poker-like model to playing their favorite video games.
“We have a contest model where people can pay a fixed fee to enter a contest for a fixed prize,” Schorr said of the current set-up.
“What we’d like, maybe sometime next year, is to have people be able to play video games like you would play poker in a poker room. Ten guys down, they’re sitting at what we call an e-pit. They all put money into a pot, the house takes a rake (commission fee).”
First, the Nevada Gaming Control Board needs to be convinced the integrity of the games will upheld.
“That’s something we’re working on right now,” Schorr said. “It will be the responsibility of the operator to moderate the game. We’re the ones responsible to make sure the game is fair, to mitigate any cheating and to resolve any disputes.”
Schorr, 39, admits that a year ago he was not a video-game player, but the Downtown Grand’s owners, CIM Group, encouraged him to pursue the eSports possibilities for the casino. CIM also has financial interests in IGN.com, a video-game website.
Now, Schorr is leading the charge to try to expand the video-game opportunities in Nevada casinos.
He spent last week in New York meeting with a company that has developed the world’s first video game slot machine. The approach is similar to playing video poker.
“The pay tables are based on the number of people you kill,” Schorr said, adding that the company will soon submit an application for the game to be approved in Nevada.
As a young casino operator, Schorr believes it’s on him to push for this type of change.
“I do feel it’s my duty,” he said. “I mean that sincerely. I think this is important.”
The Mandalay Bay Events Center will be the site next month for a League of Legends championship tournament.
Schorr anticipates Las Vegas arenas will host more and more annual or even quarterly eSports events. He wants DTG to be the daily destination for gamers.
“I do know that the Downtown Grand is the first and only casino in the world to actively have an eSports base today, one that is activated on a weekly basis,” Schorr said. “It’s been a great addition to the casino. It’s brought a whole new level of energy. “We’re taking a calculated risk being the first in this state, but we’ve also learned a lot from doing that.”
The Downtown Undergrouund is still a work in progress. Schorr expects it to become an around-the-clock home for video-game enthusiasts in the next month or so.
“We’ll have PCs set up for teams to play each other,” he said. “We’ll have Xboxes, Playstation 4 and even classic arcade games. That’s our way to bridge the gap between the younger generation and the slightly older generation.”
Schorr’s father, Marc, was a top executive for Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino magnate.
When Seth was 7 years old, he was given business cards by Wynn with the title “Director of Kids Marketing.” Seth’s own son, Dax, will turn 7 in the next year. Dax, who asks his father to play Star Wars Battlefront on a daily basis, could be getting his own set of business cards.
Perhaps they will read: “Director of Kids’ Video Games.”
Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and FoxSportsDetroit.com. He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Email: DaveDye@GamingToday.com.