Seth Schorr is the first to admit it. Of the estimated 93 million Americans who play video games, he has never really been one of them. Truth be told, if it weren’t for relenting to his 6-year-old son Dax’s persistent requests to sit down and play Star Wars Battlefront, Schorr’s time spent with a game controller in his hands would be next to nil.
But Schorr isn’t blind to the tremendous influence the eSports market could have in Las Vegas, where he serves as the owner of Fifth Street Gaming and chairman of Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. In fact, his eyes are more wide open and optimistic regarding the enormous potential than perhaps anyone in the entire casino industry.
“It’s undeniable that the landscape of gaming is changing, along with every other industry because of advanced technology and consumer behavior,” the 39-year-old Schorr explained. “I feel it is my duty to my company and its investors to keep Nevada relevant by changing with the times and coming up with new ways to make the gambling experience more compelling.”
Last year, Schorr and his staff began implementing a strategy in which competitive and professional video gaming would become a part of the guest experience at Downtown Grand, located on the site of the former Lady Luck Hotel & Casino in the center of the Downtown 3rd metropolitan district. In February, it became the first casino Schorr is aware of to open a dedicated space for video games. Right dab in the middle of the casino floor for all to see, Downtown Grand now has an eSports Lounge, in a room previously used for high-limit gaming, which can now be found next to Furnace Bar. The 1,140-square-foot lounge is ideal for five-on-five team competitions with a bank of 10 PCs, as well as Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Within the next month, classic arcade games will be added, as well as a Nintendo 64 console, an attempt to appeal to the late-30s/early-40s demographic who grew up with that wildly popular game attached to their TVs.
Every Friday, the casino runs eContests in which entrants pay a fee of around $15 and compete against others in games like Madden, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and NBA2K for cash prizes. The events regularly draw as many as 50 players with an equal number of spectators.
“It’s really cool to walk by on a Friday night and see two people playing Mortal Kombat head-to-head with 40 or 50 people standing around cheering them on,” Schorr said. “What’s great is that we’re finding that something like this really fits quite naturally in the casino atmosphere. It brings tremendous energy to the casino floor, which is always a good thing.”