Las Vegas Sun

June 29, 2017

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Turner Sports exec bullish on Las Vegas as e-sports hub

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John Locher / AP

Teams compete during the Dreamhack Masters e-sports tournament Feb. 17 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Las Vegas Strip is getting its first space dedicated for competitive gaming when the Luxor transforms its nightclub into a multilevel e-sports arena. MGM Resorts International on Tuesday said the venue is expected to open in early 2018.

With the recent addition of an e-sports arena downtown and one set to be constructed on the Strip, Las Vegas is quickly becoming a destination for serious gamers.

Luxor is adding an e-sports arena in the space that formerly housed LAX nightclub, and Millennial Esports Arena opened in Neonopolis in March. Other events have been held at locations around town, including one that boasted a $450,000 payout at MGM Grand Garden Arena in February.

Keeping a keen eye on how the e-sports industry is accepted in Las Vegas is Turner Sports with its Eleague, broadcasting shows on TBS and online via Twitch, one of the most popular video platforms for gamers.

“We’re in conversations right now to figure out if there is opportunity here to do some larger-scale events,” Craig Barry, chief content officer at Turner Sports, told the Sun last week. “That may include not only the e-sports events for professionals, but maybe an amateur extension, or a music component to create a destination.”

Making Las Vegas a destination for e-sports won’t be difficult, Barry said, because the city is already known for its world-class hotels, dining and shopping options, among other aspects that are attractive to potential tournaments.

Dedicated venues popping up in Las Vegas will go a long way toward legitimizing the city as a major player in the e-sports world, Barry said.

“The ability to be authentic and create an experience for the e-sports community that they can engage in, they can appreciate and ultimately that they want to come back and do it again is absolutely crucial to have any kind of longevity in this space,” he said.

Barry envisions Las Vegas serving as not only a large-scale event destination but as headquarters for those looking to make a name for themselves in the e-sports world.

“We have spent a lot of time here trying to figure out what the best kind of approach and execution would be,” he said. “Not only from live professional events, but an amateur infrastructure, or an amateur ecosystem. People could come here at any day of the year and participate in e-sports to potentially win money or an opportunity to go pro, or a shot at going to an amateur championship.”

Throughout the NBA playoffs on TNT, Turner Sports has promoted its Eleague Street Fighter Invitational and celebrity competition. With Las Vegas drawing celebrities for various appearances on an almost daily basis, Barry said he could see the city hosting similar events.

“Las Vegas clearly is a likable destination. Much like places like Miami, (gamers) don’t mind coming here to participate so it lends itself to a real opportunity,” he said. “A lot of professional athletes play video games generally. That leads to this kind of star power and celebrity that can be integrated to e-sports in general.”

With all the activity surrounding e-sports in Las Vegas, there’s no reason why the city can’t become an e-sports hub, he said.

“Why not? I think that that is untapped territory,” Barry said. “I’m not sure if there is any city that could be called the sports hub … There’s a real opportunity for any city potentially which is willing to make the investment to end up being a true hub for e-sports.”

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