University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and Caesars Entertainment announced the creation of Black Fire Innovation, a technology hub where new gaming and hospitality concepts will be created and tested in a 43,000 square-foot innovation space that will include elements of mock hotel rooms, a casino floor and sportsbook, an esports arena and virtual reality facilities. Black Fire Innovation brings the university's academic leaders and Caesars Entertainment, one of the world's most diversified casino-entertainment providers, together in one space to advance current trends in hospitality and gaming technology to propel the industry forward. The complex is expected to open by the end of 2019.
Black Fire Innovation will be headquartered in a state-of-the-art research building in the UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park located in southwest Las Vegas. Expected to open later this year, this multipurpose space will allow UNLV, Caesars and partners to develop and test new concepts using a mock integrated resort environment. Elements of mock hotel rooms, a casino floor with slots and table games, presentation/exhibit areas, sports book, esports arena and virtual reality facilities will be used to host on-demand testing of new ideas and products and provide a venue to showcase innovations to current and potential industry partners.
"This collaboration with Caesars Entertainment will strengthen UNLV's role as a research and innovation leader and further elevate Las Vegas as the global intellectual capital for gaming and hospitality," said UNLV President Marta Meana. "Collaborations like Black Fire Innovation also give our students unparalleled access to experts at the forefront of the industry. It's an experience unique to Las Vegas that we're proud to offer at UNLV."
Research within the Black Fire Innovation space will focus on emerging technologies, which may include blockchain, artificial intelligence and virtual reality with interdisciplinary collaborations across areas such as architecture, psychology and fine arts. Additionally, there will be opportunities for participating startups, researchers and partners to examine how these new technologies are changing how resorts approach gaming, sports wagering and social spaces to appeal to new audiences.
"We intend to accelerate innovation in a way that is truly unprecedented within the gaming and hospitality space, bringing together top researchers and industry experts in a unique collaborative environment," said Les Ottolenghi, Caesars Entertainment executive vice president and chief information officer. "Working side-by-side and with emerging student talent, technology partners and the community through this technology hub, Black Fire Innovation is designed to spur the creativity and entrepreneurship that will shape the future of our industry for many years to come."
Although students and professionals from UNLV's Division of Research and Economic Development and Caesars Entertainment will occupy the space, Black Fire Innovation is an academic incubator that will also be available to private industry partners who want to advance their research and test concepts. The space is expected to foster a collaborative research environment that will spark strategic partnerships and elevate student learning and entrepreneurship while training an emerging workforce that can excel in a rapidly evolving industry.
Black Fire Innovation will be located within a four-story, 111,000-square-foot innovation building at the master-planned UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park that is currently under development. The park – a partnership among UNLV, the UNLV Research Foundation and Gardner Company – will serve as a catalyst to unite business, research and technology and advance economic development efforts throughout Southern Nevada.