Las Vegas Considers Adding eSports to Casino Offerings at Latest Gaming Commission Hearing

Posted on: May 16, 2016, 06:58h. 

Last updated on: May 16, 2016, 07:25h.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval joined a meeting of the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee on Friday as a group of largely middle-aged men in suits were invited to wrap their silvery heads around the ultimate “millennial” pastime, eSports.

Brian Sandoval eSports Las Vegas
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, not a habitual video-gamer, wants to get down with eSports, or at least the revenue the games bring in. (Image: Isaac Brekken/MCTvia Getty)

eSports, or professional competitive video gaming, is set to become a $1.9 billion industry by 2018, according to predictions by analysts SuperData, and Las Vegas wants a piece of that pie.

It has not escaped the attention of the city’s captains of industry that the millennial generation, reared on Counter-Strike and Grand Theft Auto, lack the appetite for the slot machines and craps tables that were so enthusiastically devoured by their Great-Aunt Muriels and Uncle Hanks.

The fact that more people are coming to Vegas than ever before these days, and yet fewer, proportionately, are hitting the gaming tables is beginning to trouble the powers that be.

Time for Change

The casino floor is ripe for innovation, it seems. Because, truth be told, some of these casino games are descendants of ones that were created hundreds of years ago, and times have changed a bit since the upper classes sat down to whist while the servants passed around the sherry.

“There’s a lot for me to learn,” declared Sandoval at the meeting, who confessed, to no one’s particular surprise, that he was not a habitual player of video games. “And I want to be receptive to a new generation of gamers.”

Nevada has already changed its gaming laws to allow for the introduction of variable payouts in its casinos. This will pave the way for the advent of slot-video-skill-gaming hybrids, where habitual, practiced gamers will be able to develop an edge over the average customer and therefore yield a higher payout.

But the real issue up for debate on Friday was whether competitive video gamers can be considered to be “athletes,” and thus whether the wagering on the outcome of competitive video-game match-ups should be allowed in the sports books of Las Vegas.

 Not Against the Rules

Numerous regulated and unregulated eSports wagering sites have sprung up on the Internet over the last few years, and casino operators are beginning to wonder whether this might be the future of betting.

“It capitalizes on the fact that we are the global center for gaming and hospitality,” said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “We are the place that everyone looks to when it comes to regulation and making sure that these types of games can happen … in a way that people can trust.”

And some casinos are already getting in on the act. The Downtown Grand recently installed a video game lounge that spreads eSports tournaments every weekend, and Mandalay Bay hosted a League of Legends tournament featuring some of the world’s top “cyber-athletes” last month.

Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett told the committee that there is nothing in Nevada’s list of prohibited wagers that would appear to preclude esports.

Which means that Vegas sports book could soon be filled with people speculating on the form of the world’s top Hearthstone players, provided that those of us over 30 can get used to uttering he word “cyber-athlete” without smirking.