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Downtown casino executive: Gaming’s embrace of esports won’t happen overnight

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Steve Marcus

Seth Schorr, CEO of the Downtown Grand, speaks during an official opening ceremony for the Downtown Grand in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.

The combination of video gaming and gambling is undoubtedly going to become more popular. But it’s not the revolutionary idea some make it out to be, and its widespread acceptance is not imminent, said one downtown casino executive Thursday at a gathering of gaming marketing pros.

“The concepts (with esports and skill-based gaming) are not totally different from what our industry is doing now,” said Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and owner-operator of the Downtown Grand. “But we just have to present it differently.”

Schorr, a keynote speaker at the Casino Marketing and Technology Conference at Bally’s Las Vegas Wednesday and Thursday, noted that the casino industry has experience with skilled gaming with table games and other forms of gambling.

Even in cases when esports and skill-based games diverge radically from traditional casino offerings, they are not something that will or should immediately replace slots and other gambling mainstays on the casino floor, he said.

“I don’t want to be the guy pouring the Kool-Aid and not drinking it. But I want to be the long-term guy,” Schorr said. “If you’re just worrying about the next three years, I wouldn’t even entertain it. But if you’re making games or looking at a longer period, then yes,” he said.

Schorr said he based his conclusions on research he’s done over the last few years as well as his experience hosting esports tournaments and offering bets on esports at the Downtown Grand.

The changes, he said, may seem unlikely to some, but so were other more recent changes to the casino industry.

“Esports and other forms of skill-based gaming are part of the future. I don’t think slots will go out of business … but slots will evolve and change. And to complement slots and tables, there will be new forms of gaming.”

He cited the importance of the nightclub business in the last decade.

“If, 10 years ago, we had talked about the nightclub business and someone said we’re going to generate a huge percentage of our revenues — not just revenues but profits — from booze in an industry that traditionally gave away booze to get people to gamble, they’d have call that person crazy.

“And whoever thought you would generate money from parking — that we would be charging for parking?”

While Schorr thinks changes are coming, he said the casino business does not face the same challenges other industries have faced as technology expanded into every aspect of modern life.

“Technology disrupts every business at some point, some businesses more than others,” Schorrr said. ”I mean, we should be happy we’re not bricks-and-mortar retailers, right?

“None of these concepts are new,” Schorr said. “Technology has always been a very important part of our business, and there are some amazing products out on the floor — some great technology. And this has always been an industry that’s leveraged innovative technology.”

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