The second and final day of Naruscope’s Esports and Casino Resorts offered more than just panels and networking with the Manatt Digital Startup Launchpad finals and an exclusive tour of Millennial Esports’ dedicated arena at the Neonopolis in Vegas.
Prior to these however there were a host of interesting sessions at which the buzzwords of millennial and authenticity were thrown almost as much as slot machines were insulted. As the industry’s first dedicated lawyer Bryce Blum put it, whilst these terms are used far too often it’s still important to unpack them and the reasons they crop up so regularly in regard to casinos and esports.
Closing the day on a panel alongside Brett Arbarbanel, Director of Research International Gaming Institute at UNLV, the pair discussed non-endemics that have been received well by esports communities (see Arby’s with its CSGO shooting range content) and not so well (Buffalo Wild Wings).
Blum also got the Esports Insider seal of approval by urging all listeners to, at the least, come away with the knowledge that it’s esports, not e-sport, eSports, e-Sports, or any other variation of the word.
Prior to this session Blum’s teammate at Unikrn, and company founder, Rahul Sood gave casinos an education on how they can bring in esports gambling and fans of competitive gaming to best effect. As a LoL fan himself, Sood time and again urged casino operators to create a “comfortable atmosphere” for gamers.
This means not whacking some CS:GO on a screen alongside NFL in a current sportsbook area, but committing to it and creating an esports-book section. If done right, with the full package including food, drinks and merchandise bespoke fitted to whichever esports community is being targeted for that event, then the organiser should see success and moreover see these fans both return and tell their friends.
He said that one casino on the strip needs to step up and commit to creating an ‘esports mecca, and a comfortable, focused space for these fans’.
Whether a dedicated whole venue for esports and skill gaming could have success on the strip in Vegas right now was dismissed in an earlier panel on ‘mobile tournaments – esports for everyone’ where it was said that whilst esports has entered the mainstream it still has a long way to go culturally before this is viable.
Other panels including Christina Alejandre who discussed how at ELEAGUE they’re aiming to go further with content which invests the viewer emotionally, meaning storytelling around the players; their back stories, their level of commitment and more to engage viewers and alter the perception of the general public on pro gamers.
The startup launchpad saw three impressive pitches from firstblood.io, Maestro, and Vantage Sports, three distinct companies in the space but all with seemingly viable business models. It was Maestro that won the $50,000 prize; CEO Ari Evans impressed with his pitch which focused on harnessing data and how they plan to “create the future of broadcasting”.
The morning sessions included Steve Arhancet, the CEO of Team Liquid, alongside Nick Allen, Esports Director at Twitch and Neil Duffy of the International eGames Group. The potential for Vegas to utilise streamers and influencers by having them in-house, or putting them up for a week was discussed, whilst Arhancet also deliberated over the idea of having a team house in Vegas. This, he said, is an idea “with great potential, in terms of fan engagement as they could visit the facility where they train, and scout”.
Allen and Duffy also agreed that The International is the best event they’ve been to with Allen pointing to the exceptional work that goes into it which ensures it’s a “celebration of the game and community”.
Which esports best fit the casino environment was also discussed, as were integrity measures and the potential of college scholarships. UNLV’s Robert Ripple confidently asserted that “colleges will undoubtedly start to look to secure the top esports talent” as they do in traditional sports, and that he expects that scholarships will follow.
Casino operators will have come away from the event with an education on esports, and moreover a solid and comprehensive showing of the many ways in which they can benefit from embracing esports if they do it properly. Creating an environment in which esports fans feel comfortable and being genuinely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about it are key.
Fans will smell someone trying to fake this and exploit them a mile off, and so the best way to enter esports is to employ those that know, love and understand it already, or better yet become a fan yourself. As Turner Sports’ Alejandre stated: “You’ve got to go to at least one esports event in your life.”