Upcoming Casino Esport Conference Luring Las Vegas Industry Execs Looking for Ways to Cash In, But a Few Roadblocks Remain

Posted on: August 15, 2018, 03:30h. 

Last updated on: August 15, 2018, 02:08h.

Early fall’s Casino Esport Conference coming to Las Vegas — coming into town for the second year on September 5 and 6 — will pull in hundreds of casino executives, game developers, and players.

esports conference
The Luxor Casino’s dedicated competitive gaming arena will play host to the second annual Casino eSports Conference in Las Vegas in early September. (Source: The Luxor)

The 30,000-square-foot, purpose-built Esports Arena at the MGM Resorts-owned Luxor will play host to the event on the Las Vegas Strip.

In addition to marketers, players, and providers, this year’s conference — dubbed “For the New Age of Gaming” — will also be tailored towards casinos interested in including esports options at their facilities.

It’s just like a nightclub at a casino, another form of entertainment,” Jennifer Roberts of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at UNLV told CDC Gaming Reports this week. “It’s another amenity just like a sports book that is added to bring in a different demographic.”

Well, maybe not just like a nightclub: there’s no bottle service, the insanely marked up liquor sold at sometimes a 1,000 percent premium to high-rollers and those who want to appear to be one, that makes the clubs equally insanely profitable. But you get the idea. It’s not gaming, and it’s appealing to a demographic that’s eluded casino suits when it comes to attracting the millennial crowd.

Faster, Higher, Stronger

Just how big are eSports becoming? Members of the International ESports Federation (IESF) recently sat down with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to talk about the possibility of making esports an Olympic event.

Early indications are promising, as the IOC has previously said that esports “could be considered a sporting activity,” and the committee is leaving the door open to its inclusion in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

“It won’t be possible to be an official discipline,” IESF Acting Secretary General Leopold Chung told the BBC News. “But to be a demonstration title within the Paris Olympics.”

Video game competitions will be an official medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

While its popularity hasn’t quite hit the levels of traditional sports yet, the exponential growth of the esports phenomenon is undeniable. Total global revenues hit $655 million in 2017, a 33 percent increase over the previous year. That figure is expected to burgeon to $1.65 billion by 2021.

Mixed Match

One revenue source that esports may not be able to rely on much longer is that of sponsorships from gaming operators.

As participants get ready for The International 2018 in Vancouver, Canada next week — one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar — game developer Valve is asking participants not to take on sponsorship deals with websites that feature gambling.

Several teams already have such sponsorships in place, including the powerhouse Invictus squad, which wears a Betway patch on its jerseys. With that in mind, it’s not clear what will happen to teams that already have these deals in place, or how strictly Valve’s request will be enforced.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas gaming industry is scrambling to try to figure out how to best regulate the betting market around esports. With rumors of social betting going on, the natural progression to a more formalized standard that would be sanctioned and regulated for betting is a long ways off yet.

But not everyone is concerned about the marriage of esports and gaming, at least as a partnership. The World Series of Poker this year teamed up with UMG and offered players and spectators the chance to compete in friendly games of Fortnite, Hearthstone, and FIFA on a specially built esports stage at the Rio in Las Vegas during the multi-week WSOP.