I participated in a number of eSports panels over the last year, I thought it would be a good time to send out a primer on the topic. Our team at Touch This Media is pretty excited about the space, not just because we enjoy video games but also because of the growth and opportunity it provides.

To start with I think we should define what we’re talking about when we say eSports. We are referring to video games that are played at a professional level. Just like any other game, eSports have leagues, seasons, teams, prize money and sponsors. Next, we’ll talk about where the games are played. Currently, there are three major platforms for eSports: mobile, which covers phones and tablets; console, which includes Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo; and PCs, which are desktop computers.

Within each platform you have the different game styles. MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas) like LOL (League of Legends) and Dota2 (Defense of the Ancients). FPSs (first person shooters) like Call of Duty, Overwatch and Counterstrike. Battle Royale (up to 100 players fight to be the last one standing) which includes Fortnite and PUBG (player unknown’s battlegrounds). There are also racing games, sports games, fighting games and card games, all of which are similarly popular game styles.

WHY SHOULD CASINOS CARE?

With estimates of the eSports industry reaching over $1.48 billion and a global audience of over 500 million, it appears the market is here to stay. The audience for eSports is different than what many casinos currently see coming through their doors. It is a younger, male-dominated and digitally-focused segment. They live online, spending large amounts of time on social media, often not really watching network TV or responding to conventional advertising. This is a growing segment and it represents the future, not just for casinos but for entertainment as well. 

HOW CAN CASINOS GET STARTED?

Before you make a big investment in a new state of the art eSports arena, you’ll want to see if this is the type of thing that your community wants to support. Lots of people love playing video games but building out the infrastructure to support and grow eSports at your casino takes time and commitment. I would recommend testing the waters before diving in.

A great place to start is with an online promotional event based on one of the larger tournaments. Get players interested, educate them about eSports and give them a reason to get engaged.

From there you could host on-site events around the big tournaments, sectioning off part of a sports bar, doing drink specials and small giveaways to build on-site awareness and bring fans to the property for your event.

Hosting a small contest on the floor is a great way to continue to build visibility. For example hold a Madden19 football tournament in August during the preseason. This can be easily done with four to five large screen TVs, five Xboxes, a couple of couches and a 12-year-old to hook up the systems (or your IT person).

From there you can work with promoters to host your own tournaments or do Pro-Am game events to further draw in gaming fans and create a new attraction for your casino.

If you need more support, companies like Touch This Media can provide you with turnkey web and mobile solutions to test mobile and web promotions before you commit to a larger capital investment. We can also help bring sponsored events to your property.

HOW SHOULD YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?

So far we’ve thrown around a lot of good ideas to raise awareness, but how do you convert that awareness into measurable revenue? As it stands today most casinos don’t offer any wagering on eSports. The sportsbooks in Nevada currently list eSports as an “other event” like betting on a draft. Though recent actions between the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the eSports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) have shown that eSports will likely soon fall under the sports category for betting considerations. With the repeal of PASPA it is likely that any betting regulations will come down to a state-by-state ruling.

Looking beyond taking direct wagers on eSports, most casinos should be looking to use eSports as a tool to bring in a generation of younger players to the location, to participate in events, and to engage with other areas on the property. The key to measuring how effective these events are is to tie any promotion to a player’s club membership. You could even create a new category just for online players, giving them a mobile or web-based method to interact with your casino. Since you won’t be able to change how they choose to interact with their entertainment, it is time for you to reach them where they live, online. 

BRINGING IT ALL BACK AROUND

Going back to our original question, do eSports belong at your casino? The answer is absolutely! Should you run out and build a multimillion-dollar eSports arena? Probably not. eSports have established themselves as a popular new entertainment source for millions of younger viewers and while they might not be coming to your casino today, you will want to find ways to encourage them to get offline and visit your property. With a sustained plan to educate customers about what eSports are, engage them with promotions online and excite them with events at your location, you can make eSports an amazing channel to bring new players into your casino.