ESports: The Newest Form of Casino Gambling
ESports are not for everybody, and definitely not my own game of choice. But millions of fans and followers can’t get enough of what for them is the epitome of electrifying entertainment. In fact, of the many columns I have recently written for www.playusa.com, none generated more reader comments than the one covering the March 31-April 2 Gears Pro Circuit Atlantic City Open at Caesars Atlantic City.
More than 60 teams participated in the historic event, which was viewed both at the casino itself and online.There was big money at stake, too; the prize pool amounted to more than $200,000 in cash, with $70,000 going to the team finishing in first place. Readers were asking me when the next big tournament was coming to Atlantic City and if there was any way to still watch the Caesars tournament online. (During the event, a live stream of the action was available on www.gearsofwar.com.)
Considering how enormously popular competitions of this nature have become, it is no surprise that eSports was one of the hot topics discussed at length at the May 24-25 East Coast Gaming Conference at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. I had the privilege of attending this discussion and am pleased to share what I learned with you here.
What are eSports?
ESports, for those who are not familiar with this type of game, is a term referring to multiplayer online video game competitions. The activity has not only attracted millions of amateur players and spectators, but in recent years, many professional leagues as well. The players in these leagues compete for huge sums of money. It is possible to make a living playing eSports.
The electronic games that fall into the broad category of eSports typically involve little or no physical exertion on the player’s part. So in that sense, they bear little resemblance to traditional sports. While the vast majority of these games are battle games, the player sits in front of a computer screen or console the entire time. These games are similar to traditional sports and are called sports because they do require skill, strategy, and team play.
The Typical eSports Customer
The players who are gravitating towards eSports, just like skill-based video game players in general, tend to be younger adults—i.e., millennials (ages 21 to mid-30s) rather than older Gen X and Baby Boomers. The typical eSports customer is a 27 year-old male. In other words, eSports patrons tend to be more than 20 years younger than the average slot player. Because millennials grew up playing video games, these are their favorite games to play as adults, too, and eSports are the same kinds of games they already enjoy and excel at, elevated to a whole new level.
Protection Against Cheating
An understandable area of concern, particularly among those who are new to the world of eSports is game fairness. As the panel of experts at the East Coast Gaming Congress pointed out, it is very hard to cheat in these games, and game developers are very adept at catching any irregularities. Steps have also been taken to safeguard hardware to make cheating even more unlikely. The eSports industry takes cheating very seriously and is committed to maintaining the integrity of the games.
In addition, experts are recommending that eSports be nationally regulated, but not necessarily by the federal government. Currently, different regulations exist for each state. On the one hand, there is concern about too much fragmentation. On the other hand, the type of consistent overseeing needed is guidance rather than too much regulation, keeping in mind that this is a grass roots industry.
ESports is a growing industry with a lot of potential to do very well in the right kind of casino setting. However, casinos are a lot like shopping malls. In the same way that malls offer a diverse selection of stores catering to different people with different tastes, casinos offer a very diverse selection of games, of which eSports is just one category. Properties which cater to millennials are more suitable for eSports than those catering primarily to older customers. However, even among millennial friendly casinos, some are priced out of the range of those who would show up for eSports. Thus, for example, Bally’s in Las Vegas might not be the best location for an eSports event because it is not as millennial-friendly as some of the other casino hotels on the Strip. But the Aria, even though the property is popular with millennials, might not be a good fit for eSports either because the prices are too high. On the other hand, a casino-hotel like the Luxor or Monte Carlo or one of the other Caesars owned properties would probably do very well with eSports.
In fact, Caesars Entertainment and partner Gambit Gaming, a leading manufacturer of skill-based video games for use in casinos, have already launched several multi-player gaming tables for head-to-head competition for an initial field test at Planet Hollywood.
At this time, understandably, many casinos are treading slowly. rather than plunging in to relatively uncharted territory, uncertain of the outcome. However, the enormous success of the Gears Pro Circuit Atlantic City Open at Caesars Atlantic City this past spring should be proof enough that the potential for this rapidly growing industry is too big for casinos to ignore.
There is no off-season in eSports. The games are played year round. Furthermore, the already huge online audience is continuing to grow rapidly. According to a research study by Super Data the number of people watching these games already exceeds 213 million, and by 2019, this figure is expected to reach over 300 million.
Twitch.tv, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, the world’s leading live streaming online and mobile video games platform, alone has more than 100 million visitors per month. Even the major professional sports, long time opponents of any type of sports betting, are getting involved. For example, the NBA recently started an eLeague.
Another important factor expected to spur the continued growth of eSports now and in the future is improved quality of the products. If, as expected, the result is increased casino activity, Seth Schorr, Chairman of the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, and a speaker at the Harrah’s conference, may be right on the money in his prediction. Schorr predicts that “all casinos, 10 years from now, will evolve and offer some sort of interactive experiences.” Schorr was instrumental in developing the eSports program at the Downtown Grand, the first fully integrated eSports program at a casino resort in the U.S. In another decade, there may be many more.