The COO of Agua Caliente Casinos, Saverio Scheri III, will deliver the keynote address. The conference, hosted by founders Ben and Ari Fox, will also feature Bobby Soper, international president at Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, and Seth Schorr, chairman of the Grand Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas and CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, who helped bring esports wagering to Nevada. They will speak on implementing immersive experiences.
As esports grows in stature, Nevada formed a technical advisory committee on the vertical that met for the first time on March 1. Earlier this year, New Jersey took similar steps to expand esports wagering.
“The conversation when we started and where we are at today are completely different,” Ben Fox said. “Even though the esports committee for us is a very small portion of this, it’s still moving that conversation to the point where we’re implementing (this gaming option). The three casino operators coming represent Las Vegas, native American casinos in Southern California, and the Mohegan Sun. The casino operators are already participating and experimenting on their own.”
Prior to the pandemic, Agua Caliente had been running regular esports tournaments, which attracted younger customers to the casino with sports bars doubling as arenas for esports. It plans to bring tournaments back.
“Saverio Scheri has shown how it can work on a casino property,” Ben Fox said. “Already, operators are doing this and now they’re coming to tell others that they should be doing the same thing. They don’t need to corner the market on esports. They just have to become an offering.”
The Fox brothers said Bobby Soper will talk about the need for casinos to implement some form of esports. The Mohegan Sun’s planned resort in Korea that opens in 2023 is expected to include esports, Ari Fox said.
“Esports is entertainment, so even if you don’t make money on it, it still draws people to your property,” Ben Fox said. “Casinos and entertainment venues are all about bodies through the door. That’s why casinos have concerts and other events to attract those people they feel they’re missing, and once they’re there, they’ll use the amenities.”
Ari Fox calls the CEC a trailblazing conference, because it focuses on everything that needs to be talked about post-pandemic and the next generation of entertainment for casino patrons. There’s a session on immersive experiences and tech-driven technology and why they’re important. That’s a focus on holograms and virtual and augmented reality and what it means for gambling.
Ben Sewell, vice president of sales solutions for ANC, which does sports entertainment technology and digital signage, will speak, as will Steve Boyle, founder and CEO of Epic Immersive. Vince Kadlubek, founder of Meow Wolf, an art collective that specializes in immersive walk-through experiences at Area15 in Las Vegas and across the country, will talk about the concept of expanded entertainment with interactive elements.
The featured keynote speaker at the conference talking about immersive experiences is Brian Mirakian, a senior principal and esports director for the Americas at Populous, a design firm that creates environments for experiences. It designed the MSG Sphere entertainment venue in Las Vegas that will open in 2023.
“It’s not just esports, but these immersive experiences,” Ben Fox said. “All of these things will add to more people coming to casinos.”
The conference has a session on marketing to a younger demographic and what casinos mean to Millennials and Generation Z. The session will also focus on how to change the narrative of a casino and its online platform to attract younger audiences.
Next Gaming CEO Mike Darley will showcase his company’s skill-based games that feature legacy arcade brands.
The UNLV Black Fire Innovation Hub and Stockton U Esports Innovative Center will host a presentation on the state of esports and the future of the casino industry.
“Between Black Fire and Stockton, people should know these are the innovative centers that are testing the physical properties of esports and video gaming,” Ben Fox said. “They’ll talk about the products that need to be in place to work in a casino.”
The conference will also feature Becky Harris, former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and Michael Morton, senior policy counsel for the Board. They will talk about how esports will play out and how it should be regulated, Ben Fox said.
Ben Fox said their focus on esports tournaments, legal aspects, and immersive experience “is tied in a bow” for this year’s conference. He compared it to just before sports betting became legal across the country when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on single-game wagers. There was then a rush to implement sports betting, he said.
“Anybody on the sideline who thinks they don’t need to come to this, saying, ‘It’s years away,’ it’s not,” Ben Fox said. “When we’re done with this event, we should start implementing different types of esports and video gaming offerings in a lot of operators that are showing up. We’ve gotten a lot more operators than we have ever gotten. We’re getting them from Nevada, California, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Washington, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, and other states. Operators that don’t come to this will be years behind. At least their marketing people should be here to understand their opportunities. They will get a jump on what they need to do.”
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