Esports and casinos may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but in recent years, they have increasingly converged to create a mutually beneficial relationship. This unexpected alliance has given rise to special esports arenas within casinos, casino brands sponsoring competitive gaming teams, and even casino games incorporating elements inspired by esports. As traditional gambling revenues have faced a decline, casinos have recognized the potential of the booming esports industry, leading to a dynamic shift in the way these entertainment giants operate. As the esports phenomenon continues to grow, one thing is clear: the relationship between casinos and competitive gaming is only set to strengthen in the future, with the most saavy operators taking the plunge early, to establish first-to-market dominance.

Saving the Gambing Industry

The decision to venture into esports comes at a time when traditional gambling revenues are on the decline. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the gross gaming revenue from the Las Vegas Strip saw a decrease in recent years. Meanwhile, the esports industry was on an upward trajectory, reaching the billion-dollar mark in 2019. This stark contrast, along with the desire to attract a younger demographic to casinos, has led many gambling operators to explore ways to tap into the esports phenomenon.

Top Esports and Casino Industry Commercial Initiatives

One of the most prominent examples of this union can be found in Las Vegas, the self-proclaimed casino capital of the world. Las Vegas has not only embraced esports but has also become a pioneer in the integration of competitive gaming into the casino experience. The Luxor Casino’s esports arenas have gained significant attention, drawing esports enthusiasts and gamers to their state-of-the-art facilities. Additionally, WinStar World Casino made history by becoming the first esports casino sponsor of a competitive gaming team, highlighting the growing interest of casinos in this industry.

Las Vegas, with its reputation for entertainment and innovation, was quick to embrace competitive gaming. The city has been no stranger to esports, hosting the Evolution Championship Series as early as 2005, which has grown to become one of the biggest fighting game tournaments globally, now held at the Mandalay Bay casino resort operated by MGM.

Leading Las Vegas casino brands, including Caesars, Luxor, and Downtown Grand, have taken various steps to integrate esports into their offerings. Caesars, for example, unveiled a 48,000-square-foot production studio designed specifically for esports in 2017. The company had already been hosting competitive gaming tournaments, such as Gears of War events, laying the groundwork for the arrival of major esports leagues like the H1Z1 competitive gaming tournament in 2018.

MGM, another major player in the Las Vegas casino scene, announced plans to create a dedicated “millennial gaming playground.” This innovative project would allow Unikrn, an esports betting brand, to host esports tournaments within the casino space. MGM also teamed up with ESP Gaming to develop a 10,000-square-foot esports facility within its casino hotel.

The trend is not confined to Las Vegas alone; even the renowned Asian casino gaming resort of Macau has started to introduce competitive gaming elements, exemplified by Melco’s new esports arena at Studio City.

Do Casinos Need Massive Stadiums to Cash in on This Thriving Industry?

You may have noticed that the examples above all feature large, giant sized stadiums. Contrary to conventional wisdom, giant-sized esports gaming stadiums may not be the ideal approach. Smaller, more modest venues, such as those spanning around 1,000 – 5,000 square feet, can be more practical and versatile. Many casinos already have rooms that are currently being unused, or they have spaces that are not very active, and could be converted into a more attractive, dynamic offering for patrons. Here’s some reasons why we feel smaller esports venues in casinos are the smarter choice, and how they can cater to a wide range of audiences.

1. Versatility and Accessibility: One of the key advantages of smaller esports venues is their versatility. They can serve multiple purposes, accommodating a variety of age groups and gaming preferences. Such spaces can include areas dedicated to kids, rooms designed for casual and competitive gaming for adults, and even spaces for educational gaming.

2. Parent-Friendly Gaming Zones: Smaller esports venues can address a common concern for parents who visit casinos – what to do with their children while they gamble. By dedicating part of the venue to kids’ gaming, parents can drop off their children in a safe and supervised environment. These areas can feature popular games like Fortnite and Minecraft, providing entertainment and even educational value. Parents can enjoy their casino experience with peace of mind, knowing their children are engaged in age-appropriate activities.

3. Educational Gaming Rooms: Esports isn’t just about competition; it can also be an educational tool. Smaller venues can include dedicated rooms for educational gaming experiences, where children can learn computer science, mathematics, and engage in STEM and STEAM programs, all while playing engaging games. This not only appeals to parents looking for both entertainment and enrichment for their kids but also showcases the casino’s commitment to fostering a learning environment.

4. Casual and Competitive Spaces: A well-designed smaller esports venue can cater to both casual and competitive gamers aged 18 and above. Different sections or times of the day can be allocated to each group, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience for all. Casual gamers can socialize and play for fun, while competitive gamers can engage in more intense gaming sessions. If the venue is big enough, sections can be separated to allow for simultaneous casual and competitive play.

5. Tournaments and Events: Smaller venues can host regular tournaments and events that draw in visitors who might not have otherwise considered the casino as their destination. These events can feature a mix of casual and competitive gaming, creating a sense of excitement and community. Tournaments can also attract local esports enthusiasts, fostering a loyal customer base.

Gaming Events Bring Key Demographics

As evidenced from our own GameSync competitive fighting game event run at Sycuan Casino in San Diego and featuring Tekken 7, we know that casinos are excited and eager to host tournaments. We saw a huge influx of 20 year olds to our tournament at Sycuan Casino, and the venue was so pleased with the response that they asked us back to host another event. One of the reasons they cited was our ability to pull in the younger demographic from the area. They said it was a breath of fresh air to see so many young people in their theater. Adults over 21 who attended were also able to hang out in the casino’s bar and play casual games with one of the hosts of local radio FM 94/9, who were co-sponsors of our event. Advertising examples in the two videos below:

Influence on Casino Games

The influence of esports has also seeped into traditional casino games. In response to a new generation of gamers seeking skill-based gambling experiences rather than relying solely on luck, many casinos have introduced skill-based slot games. While these may differ significantly from major esports titles like CS:GO/CS2 and League of Legends, they reflect casino owners’ recognition of evolving gaming preferences.

Esports casinos represent a paradigm shift in the way people seek entertainment in these establishments. Rather than being primarily associated with classic casino games such as roulette, blackjack, and slots, these venues are evolving to meet the desires of a new generation of gamers.

Build a Gaming Center in Your Casino

As esports center developers, we’ve helped a variety of business owners plan, design, and build these facilities over many years. We feel that esports arenas in casinos is an overlooked but potentially massive part of this evolving landscape, along with collaborations with gaming teams, and the incorporation of tournaments and other skill-based elements in casinos. These collaborations not only revitalize traditional casinos but also open up new avenues for esports enthusiasts to enjoy their favorite pastime in novel and engaging ways. Esports facilities inside of gaming centers offer the greatest opportunity for the gambling industry to attract a youthful, dynamic audience, one that is looking for engaging experiences in exciting environments.

We offer free consultations for any casinos in North America looking to bring these exciting new services and entertainment offerings to their establishments.


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