In many parts of the world, including China, esports have rapidly become an increasingly popular pastime, with large crowds drawing major sponsors and big prize funds for top players.

Macau esports event

European team OG came out on top in the first ever international esports competition held in Macau. (Image: Mars Media)

That meant it was only a matter of time before Macau’s casinos jumped on the bandwagon, using competitive video games as a way to help diversify their offerings and bring in some desired non-gaming revenue.

The effort began in earnest this past weekend, as the Grand Lisboa Hotel, owned by SJM Holdings acted as the title sponsor of the MDL Macau Dota2 International Elite Invitational at the University of Macau.

The tournament was billed as “the first international e-Sports competition held in Macau,” and followed a number of signs that the local gaming industry planned to get more involved in esports events.

Event Attracts Tourists, Teams from Across the Globe

“E-Sports is an emerging industry with huge growth potential and global viewership,” SJM Holdings CEO Ambrose So Shu Fai wrote in a statement. “Macau is put in the limelight with this major e-Sports tournament, which we believe will further benefit the development of the city’s tourism and leisure business.”

The tournament attracted nine teams, and had a prize pool of about $300,000. European squad OG ultimately emerged victorious, defeating TNC Gaming of the Philippines 2-0 in the final. The tournament also featured some celebrity star power, with NBA player Jeremy Lin said to be in attendance.

As SJM noted in their press release, esports has become big business in China. According to the statement, one major tournament held in 2016 attracted 43 million Chinese viewers across the event, a total that rivals some traditional sports broadcasts.

Macau Steadily Increasing Esports Presence

While this may have been the first event of this scope to take place in the territory, Macau has shown a wider interest in esports in recent months. Galaxy Entertainment Group held the 2017 China Esports Carnival” at Broadway Macau in August, while the GIRLGAMER 2017 Esports Festival took place in late August and early September at Studio City in Cotai.

Just last month, a series of business presentations at the MGS Entertainment Show in Macau focused on how the local gaming industry could best integrate competitive gaming events to attract new audiences to their resorts.

“After 2019, esports will become part of the normal life,” said Wang Guan, general manager of esports business for Alisports.

One of the biggest hurdles to getting casino executives on board with these events may be an age gap. According Electronic Sports League founder Ralf Reichert, that is changing, but those who are forward looking can still take advantage of that lack of understanding.

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand,” Reichert said. “There is still a generation that doesn’t know anything about video games. Twenty years ago that was a majority, now it’s 50-50, and in the future there will be less people that don’t understand it.”

Macau could be uniquely poised to become a host of major esports events, thanks to the extensive convention space available in the city.

“The setup for esports is more or less the same as for a big convention center,” Macau legislator and scholar Davis Fong Ka Chio said earlier this month. “Whenever there is an international esports competition, thousands of players gather.”