Mon, Feb 27, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Las Vegas opening e-sports arena to draw millennials

AP, Las Vegas

Teams compete against each other playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive during the Dreamhack Masters e-sports tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 18.

Photo: AP

The arena has all the features that a professional sports venue needs: stands, warm-up areas for teams, massive screens for spectators and a broadcast platform for commentators. What distinguishes this new Las Vegas arena is its dozens of video game consoles.

The approximately 1,400m2 e-sports venue scheduled to open on Friday will host competitive video game tournaments.

It is part of a trend that the casino industry hopes will attract the millennial crowd — 15-to-34-year-olds who are becoming majority spenders in today’s economy, but are not necessarily interested in traditional gambling.

“Las Vegas needs to consistently reinvent itself to remain relevant to the up-and-coming generation,” said Seth Schorr, chief executive of Fifth Street Gaming and a member of the board of directors of Millennial Esports, the company behind the arena. “We’ve always come up with ways to maintain our position as the entertainment capital of the world.”

Athletes participating in a tournament at the arena will emerge from a tunnel surrounded by roaring crowds in the stands. They will then go on a podium and sit at stations equipped with game consoles, monitors and other equipment.

The venue will open its doors with a three-day, US$50,000-prize-pool Halo World Championship qualifier and is to host an EA Sports-sanctioned Madden NFL 17 tournament later next month.

The arena is within walking distance of downtown hotels and casinos. It will host 200 people in stadium-style seating overlooking the main stage, but hundreds more can be accommodated in another hall outfitted with screens showing the live competition.

The entire facility was built in an area that once housed movie theaters and a nightclub.

About 5km of Ethernet cables were needed to wire the facility, and its dozens of ports offer Internet speeds of 1Gb. When no tournaments are in progress, the facility will be open to casual gamers and others interested in using the high-speed Internet.

Las Vegas casinos have invested in numerous non-gaming amenities to attract elusive millennials, from rooms with bunk beds for travelers who do not want to spend a minute apart, to a lounge that features pool, foosball and air hockey.

The Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino, a short walk from the new arena, has an e-sports lounge, where tournament competitors, casual gamers and fans play and socialize.

“The younger people don’t get enamored by the glitz and the glitter of something; it’s all about authenticity for them,” Millennial Esports chief executive Alex Igelman said.

Vegas is betting on e-sports as its popularity has evolved from a niche genre of gaming to a lucrative sport thanks to new technologies, more reliable Internet speeds and a generation of gamers that has grown up watching competitive matches on YouTube and other sites. Nevada sports books have already taken wagers on matches.

The sport now draws tens of millions of spectators to online platforms and real-world venues, including New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Los Angeles’ Staples Center and Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, which earlier this month saw 16 of the world’s best Counter Strike: Global Offensive teams compete.

Estimates show 323 million people watched e-sports last year. The global audience is expected to grow to 385 million this year.

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