Nevada eSports Gambling Legalization

By Taylor Smith
Published on June 01, 2017
eSports Gambling

Last weekend, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval officially signed a bill that makes wagering on professional video gaming, known as eSports, legal within state lines. Senate Bill 240, which was written up by Nevada senator Becky Harris, makes an amendment to the state’s existing parimutuel wagering that includes “other events” including eSports, horse racing, animal races, etc.

The new bill will allow Nevada sportsbooks to accept bets on eSports and other things, including awards shows. However, political bets are still against the law.

The bill was passed unanimously in the state senate and assembly. The Republican governor’s signature on the SB40 was fully expected.

Last fall, the Nevada Gaming Control Board gave the go-ahead on the recommendation of the Gaming Policy Committee to allow local sportsbooks to accept bets on eSports events. Shortly thereafter, the William Hill sportsbook at the Downtown Grand became the first bookmaker in the state to offer eSports betting.

So, eSports betting has technically been legal since last fall, but the signing of the new bill ensures it will remain so for the foreseeable future. Some say that eSports is as popular with millennials as traditional sports such as basketball. Given the way the sport has burgeoned in recent years, it’s kinda hard to argue with that. ESports are all over television nowadays, and events can sell out major arenas all over the world.

So, now that you’re free to bet on eSports at a Vegas casino, what does it mean as far as the global popularity of the sport?

Will This Generate Revenue in Nevada?

Las Vegas certainly doesn’t have a tourism problem. Despite the bill not having passed until this week, a new eSports arena opened back in March that is expected to attract a new audience to Las Vegas. While it’s a city known for its over-the-top glitz and glamour, most of Vegas’s tourism industry revenue comes from convention-goers of an older demographic. While that’s all fine and dandy, that’s not really something that appeals on a large scale to a younger audience.

Obviously, competitive video gaming is something that does. This is a 15,000-seat arena specifically designed to host major eSports tournaments. It is designed similarly to your standard basketball or hockey arena, complete with tunnels for the “athletes” and concession stands.

Vegas is effectively trying to get caught up in the burgeoning industry. Passing the bill and opening a sparkling new arena certainly puts the city (and state) on the right track. 323 million people watched eSports coverage on television last year alone, and that number is expected to top 380 million once 2017 is all said and done.

When the arena opened in March, it immediately hosted a three-day “Halo” tournament followed by a competitive Madden NFL 17 tourney.

Downtown Grand

While betting on eSports just officially became legal in Nevada, one hotel didn’t bother to wait for everybody else to catch on. The Downtown Grand Hotel opened less than three years ago, but it didn’t waste much time in trying to establish itself as Las Vegas’ go-to spot for eSports. Seth Schorr, the hotel’s chairman and CEO of Fifth Street Gaming told ESPN,

“We want to create a 365-day-per-year eSports destination. We want our hotel to be known as a place all year round that embraces eSports enthusiasts. For example, our in-room televisions will be streaming Twitch, our food and beverage menu will be catered toward the tastes of gamers. For example, they want their food on a stick, so their keyboards and joysticks don’t get messy. We’re going to have game consoles you can rent to your room, and we’re going to have consoles at the cabanas by the pool. We’re going to have eSports at the hotel all year round.”

The Downtown Grand also became the first hotel in Vegas to open a lounge specifically dedicated to eSports back in February. Schorr also says there are plans to expand to a second hotel in order to further accommodate the growing eSports industry.

Challenges

As of today, eSports and related terminology haven’t exactly cracked the majority of the mainstream. Everyone knows what a touchdown or a home run is. Gaming terminology…not so much. So, setting lines for eSports competitions could be challenging for oddsmakers right off the bat. Oddsmakers reportedly had similar issues when trying to set lines for mixed martial arts once that burst into the mainstream.

As a result of the relative unfamiliarity with gaming, betting limits may be fairly low at first. The Ultimate Fighting Championships began on a similar path. Initial limits were exceedingly low until oddsmakers familiarized themselves with the complexities of the sport. Now, MMA is one of the most popular sports wagering options in all of Las Vegas. It will take some time, but it’s easy to see eSports following that lead. Once the millennial generation gets older and establishes itself in the gambling community, eSports betting could easily hit the big time.

It helps that eSports already has a surprising amount of television coverage. ESPN currently has deals with several different outfits, and it has already begun showing FIFA (soccer) tournaments on its array of networks. As television coverage continues to grow, betting interest will surely follow. It’s more fun to bet on an event you can actually watch live, so TV will be a massive tool in the continued expansion of eSports gambling.

By 2020, competitive gaming is expected to generate in excess of $1 billion in revenue. Las Vegas and Nevada are pioneering the charge to get eSports into the mainstream, and legalizing gambling on the events is a massive step in the right direction. The arena and gambling aspect should start bringing a fresher, younger audience to Las Vegas, which will surely help the city stay on the map from a tourism perspective for generations to come. All aboard the eSports gambling bandwagon.

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