According to a report from research group Newzoo, there are about 148 million esports enthusiasts, and the industry is expected to generate $1 billion in revenue by 2019.
The UNLV International Gaming Institute (IGI) is on the front line of the trend, helping students, faculty, and the gaming and resort industry learn about esports and capitalize on it.
Last fall Robert Rippee, director of IGI’s
Hospitality Lab, launched the Esports Lab, the first class that any university has offered of its kind focusing on the business elements of the phenomenon. The Esports Lab focuses on designing and developing hypothetical business models to show how esports can work in a modern resort-casino setting. Students are tasked with exploring events, profitability, loyalty, and customer engagement.
Rippee expects esports to revolutionize casinos as it has his classroom, part of which will be converted to a permanent multiuse esports facility soon.
“Esports is the hottest topic in every boardroom on the Strip,” Rippee said. “It just made sense to me that UNLV should play a leading role in advancing knowledge-based research and economic modeling to support the industry and allow them to make better decisions.”
Speaking of leading roles, Brett Abarbanel (IGI’s director of research) and Jennifer Roberts (associate director of IGI’s International Center for Gaming Regulation) founded the nonprofit Nevada Esports Alliance (NVEA) this February along with founding members Seth Schorr (CEO of Fifth Street Gaming and chairman of the Downtown Grand) and Chris Grove (of Narus Advisors and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming). The NVEA is educating the region about the esports phenomenon, providing relevant research and resources that promote the development of best practices at the intersection of the esports and regulated gambling industries, such as casino integration of esports, legal and regulatory processes, game development, and competition infrastructure.
“Esports has had a significant global impact,” Abarbanel said. “We’re aiming to foster Nevada’s role in this domain by bringing together stakeholders from all areas of esports, including industry, regulatory, academic, and more.”
And this October, Abarbanel contributes her esports expertise to Gaming Law Review and Economics’ (GLRE) dedicated esports issue, for which she’ll serve as guest editor. This special issue of GLRE, a peer-reviewed journal addressing important regulatory and economic issues facing today’s gaming industry, will be among the first to take an in-depth look at esports through scholarly articles, opinion pieces, and more.