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July 16, 2019

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E-sports proponents urge casino commitment

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Seth Schorr

The development of e-sports and skill-based gaming can’t come soon enough for some in the casino industry, who see them as ways to draw a younger demographic to gambling.

However, speakers at the E-sports and Casino Resorts conference, being held today and tomorrow at the SLS in Las Vegas, say a move into e-sports requires more commitment.

“We got excited about e-sports through an exploratory process last year,” said Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and the Downtown Grand, which regularly hosts e-sports tournaments. “What we found is in order to be successful in e-sports it takes a holistic strategy.

“If you’re a casino operator, you need to look at this audience and say, ‘Is this audience really right for my property?’ If it is, then find the people who know how to authentically communicate with this audience and excite them,” Schorr said.

And exciting e-sports fans could potentially be lucrative, according to Imari Oliver, an executive at sports marketing firm WME|IMG.

Oliver, whose company was involved with the ELeague broadcasts on Turner Broadcasting and is connecting e-sports and the NBA, spoke about e-sports fans and why (and how) casinos can become involved in e-sports.

He explained that e-sports is making a shift from being an emerging phenomenon to being mainstream and that the market is huge.

“There are 256 million global fans and 38 million U.S. fans, and that includes watchers and players,” he said.

Oliver described e-sports fans as being largely male between the ages 18 and 34.

At first glance, that demographic may seem to be limiting, Oliver said. But there are so many different games and different personality types among the people who play and watch games, that any company can find a way to participate, he added.

“You can probably match almost any brand to some kind of e-sports enthusiast or watcher,” he said.

Oliver also spoke about a specific characteristic e-sports fans have that casino operators may be interested in.

“The typical e-sports fan is two times more likely to have gambled online than the average internet user,” he said.

There is currently no direct gambling on e-sports in Nevada casinos, although Schorr said his company is working on that.

Still, Oliver’s statistic about the e-sports fan’s potential propensity toward gambling is playing out in a small way at the Grand, Schorr said.

“We’ve noticed, depending on where we actually execute the tournaments, how close they are to table games dictates what percentage of people will gamble. If there are slots outside the e-sports lounge, that gets us zero.

“But we have noticed that the e-sports crowd will play blackjack. You have to have a blackjack game with the right limits right near the lounge. And we’ve created food and beverage menus specifically to induce them to spend. Which has meant we’ve seen increase in food and beverage spending.”

Schorr said his property’s focus on the e-sports audience is what drives its success.

Downtown Grand markets to the fans via social media and holds contests and raffles for the latest e-sports and tech gear, he said. The property also has specific rooms for competitors and casual players, and even has e-sports suites.

Also, the fact that the Grand’s e-sports lounge at is right near the entrance, rather than in a dark corner in the back of the casino, demonstrates a commitment to the customers that Schorr said is necessary.

“If you’re only putting up a weekly tournament every Friday and doing it just to capture this demographic’s wallet, you will probably be disappointed,” he said.

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