ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — Competitive video games hold vast economic potential in the United States and around the world, especially once gambling companies figure out how to get players and spectators interested in betting on them, attendees at an industry conference said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Casino Esport conference in Atlantic City, video game company and casino executives agreed there is a huge upside to engaging the hundreds of millions of people who play online video games online. casino industry.
“Esports is only going to get bigger,” said Seth Schorr, president of Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas. “It’s not a fad.”
Newzoo, the research firm that tracks the world of competitive video games, also known as esports, says global viewership for these games will grow 8.7% this year to 532 million. The games themselves will generate $1.38 billion in economic activity worldwide, a third of which will come from China, according to the company.
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The conference came as the casino industry takes tentative steps to try to incorporate esports into its gaming offerings, with varying degrees of success.
Luxor Casino in Las Vegas recently built a 30,000 square foot (2,800 square meter) esports arena to host events and tournaments. Atlantic City casinos have hosted several esports tournaments, and on Monday the University of Stockton officially opened its Esports Innovation Center, highlighting the growing involvement of colleges and universities in esports programs.
Scott Huston, a Stockton official, said a recent Rocket League tournament he participated in drew 50,000 online viewers.
“It’s more than any traditional sporting event Stockton has ever staged,” he said.
Ahman Green, a four-time Pro Bowl running back with the Green Bay Packers, is now deeply involved in esports, including coaching the new esports program at Lakeland University in Wisconsin.
He said his NFL teammates played competitive video games against each other to relax during downtime, but he developed a love for games as a young child.
Green said 2020 was a pivotal year for esports when most professional sports shut down for months at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“People started finding things online that they had never seen before,” he said. “Their kids were playing video games. “What is this Twitch thing?”
Twitch, the online platform, has between 3 and 6 million people at any one time, said L. Anthony Gaud, an esports and media entrepreneur. This has vast potential to generate licensed gaming revenue as regulations evolve and develop.
“It’s similar to online (casino) betting: instead of playing blackjack or poker, you play Angry Birds,” he said. “This environment is coming. There is going to be a betting angle, probably a big one. It’s going to be a very big thing.
But the marriage of video gamers and casinos has yet to be consummated on a significant scale.
Many speakers agreed that video game players are generally not content to rely on random outcomes that determine whether they win at anything – the bread and butter of casino games like slots or casino games. table. Instead, they want to feel involved in the outcome of their bet, which is why video games provide a natural on-ramp for young players into casinos.
Schorr said the industry should first focus on attracting video game players where they live: online.
“It’s good to fish where the fish are,” he says. “They are online, not in casinos. Start online, register them in the database before bringing them to the casinos.
CBS Sports HQ anchor Larry Ridley hosts esports-related television programs and regularly visits casinos across the country to try to get them interested in adopting video game events.
“We do these activations where people see it and want to get involved,” he said. “We’ve set up a station for them to create an account and play.”
Anthony Strangia, assistant attorney general for New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, said states must ensure video game contests are conducted honestly and transparently. Regulators in states such as New Jersey and Nevada are currently considering changes to their gambling laws governing esports to make it easier to take bets on events while ensuring their integrity.
“It’s a growing field,” he says. “There is definitely a future.”