Casinos Get Into the Esports Game

U.S. casinos are turning to videogame competitions to attract younger visitors and turn around years of subdued growth.

MGM Resorts International plans to convert a former nightclub at its Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas into a permanent venue for hosting esports contests starting next year, the company said Tuesday.

Other gambling properties already have built or are leasing space for such events, including Downtown Grand Las Vegas and Caesars in Atlantic City, N.J.

Casinos are looking for ways to jump-start growth, which has slowed since the recession. From 2001 to 2007, gambling revenue for casinos across the U.S. rose by more than 38%; since then, it has risen 8%, according to data from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Many casinos, particularly on the Las Vegas Strip, have sought growth through other revenue streams, such as restaurants and entertainment. Last year, 34% of casino revenue on the Strip came from gambling, down from 41% in 2007, according to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Casinos view esports as a way to attract younger new patrons who aren’t gambling as much as baby boomers or interested in existing forms of entertainment there. The average esports fan is between 21 and 35 years old, according to research firm Newzoo BV.

“This is really about creating another amenity on the property,” said Nik Rytterstrom, general manager of the Luxor.

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An expanding footprint: How downtown Las Vegas continues to evolve

When Marc Abelman spotted a Jaguar and Rolls-Royce parked outside an Arts District coffee shop recently, he shuddered a bit on the inside.

“There goes the neighborhood,” he told his wife.

He was mostly kidding, but the sight was more proof of change sweeping across the downtown blocks dedicated to the community’s arts scene. These days construction equipment whirs, groans and beeps in the area bounded roughly by Hoover Avenue to the north, Colorado Avenue to the south, Commerce Street to the west and 4th Street to the east. The activity is giving way to new coffee shops, restaurants, a hair salon and even a marijuana dispensary — some within refurbished buildings and others in new builds.

Abelman and his wife, Jill, own InsideStyle, an interior design firm on South Main Street. They chose the location based on its proximity to artists, but when they moved in six years ago, the foot and vehicle traffic was significantly smaller. Now, it’s not uncommon to find people browsing Arts District shops on a Sunday evening. The area even played host to a group of Centennial High School students earlier this week who were touring art galleries and viewing outdoor sculptures.

“Is it the Arts District’s time?” Abelman pondered aloud, while bicycling through the neighborhood recently. “It is.”

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