Casino esports conference set

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The Las Vegas gaming industry will get an introduction to the future this week at the Casino esports Conference at the Luxor Hotel and Casino.

The conference, taking place at the Luxor’s 30,000-square-foot HyperX Esports Arena, will bring together professionals from esports, projected to do $1 billion in business for the first time in 2019, and the casino industry, which is looking for ways to expand its betting markets.

Analysts say that the coveted age-18-to-34 demographic accounts for almost 75 percent of the esports audience, estimated at 450 million people worldwide.

Newzoo, an industry analytics firm, says that the global esports market will reach $1.8 million by 2022.

“Esports’ impressive audience and viewership growth is a direct result of an engaging viewership experience untethered to traditional media,” Newzoo CEO Peter Warman said, according to the company’s website. “Plenty of leagues and tournaments now have huge audiences, so companies are positioning themselves to directly monetize these esports enthusiasts.

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“While this began happening last year, the market is constantly expanding on its early learnings. The result: 2019 will be the first billion-dollar year for esports, a market that will continue to attract brands across all industries.”

UNLV’s Brett Abarbanel, director of research at the International Gaming Institute, has been a leader in studying esports and its potential as a gambling market. She will be speaking at the CEC.

“One of the major areas, really in popular culture more broadly, where were seeing more interest from both millennials and the generations now that are following millennials is in video games and spectatorship of video games,” Abarbanel said. “One of the ways that has now started to capture the interest of casinos, especially major, land-based casinos, is how they might be able to incorporate this popular concept and incorporate these games.”

The goal here, she said, is to attract a broader audience.

There has been trial and error as the industry grows and casinos try to figure out how to incorporate esports games into their products.

Online casinos, including a large number of black-market outlets, have shown a big interest in the esports market, said Abarbanel.

Audiences experience these games, not by watching television, but rather through streaming services like Twitch and YouTube. Facebook and Microsoft have also added streaming platforms focused on esports.

The experiences of international sportsbook brands that have invested in esports, such as Pinnacle and Betway, will be among the topics covered at the CEC.

Other conference subjects include:

• How to best utilize virtual and augmented reality in the casino environment

• Different virtual reality and interactive games available now and in the future

• Integrating esports into the sportsbook and esports regulation

• iGaming and online sports betting relevance to rising mobile esports competitions

• Funding esports projects and teams

• How partnerships between U.S. sports teams and leagues could be extended to esports

• The power of esports streams

• Preserving esports integrity

Preserving integrity is of particular importance to Nevada gaming regulators and casinos. Abarbanel has been looking at what she called the “gambling and gaming overlap” for almost a decade now.

“For a long time, we kept reiterating that there wasn’t enough money in these (esports tournament) prize pools,” she said. “Not necessarily that there was going to be corruption, but the potential for corruption was a little bit greater.

“But I think that we’re going to start seeing a number of leagues and tournaments that are offering prize pools at levels that make it easier for books to say, “OK, well, perhaps this is the event I feel more comfortable offering odds and taking wagers on.’” 

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About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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