It has been just a few weeks since Atlantic City welcomed Hard Rock Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino to the Boardwalk. The optimism throughout the city and the whole state of New Jersey is palpable.
Even so, the city is not resting on its recent achievements. It is preparing to court the esports industry and bring competitive gaming to the East Coast.
The revitalization of Atlantic City continues
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) and Continent 8 agreed this week to make the necessary technological enhancements to support competitive gaming competitions. Continent 8, based on the Isle of Man, provides data center services and network solutions in more than 30 locations.
The company has agreed to invest $5 million into creating a 6,000-square-foot data center in unused space in the Atlantic City Convention Center. Officials from both entities have confirmed that the plans for a new international data center are close to being finalized.
The esports industry is seeing rapid growth, and the popularity of competition among gamers has never been stronger. Finding venues that accommodate large groups while providing the bandwidth and technology to support large events can be a challenge.
It’s a win-win for Atlantic City and Continent 8. Atlantic City has a surplus of underutilized convention space. Continent 8 has 20-years of experience in managing complex networking solutions. The partnership will be enticing to the competitive online gaming industry.
Kevin Ortzman is a CRDA board member and regional president for Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s Atlantic City properties. Ortzman believes Atlantic City can capitalize on the growth of the esports industry.
“Atlantic City has the capacity to be able to bring in and really go after that specific business segment,” Ortzman said to the Press of Atlantic City.
The growth of esports
At the current pace, estimates say the industry will reach $1.4 billion by 2020.
The esports audience makeup includes “165 million esports enthusiasts and 215 million occasional viewers.”
To say online gaming is popular is an understatement. To prove the point, Google “lol,” and notice the first result. It is League of Legends, not “laughing out loud” as one might expect. League of Legends is one of the more popular games, and it doubled its unique viewers in one year at its 2017 World Championships.
Most of the revenue in esports comes from sponsorships, and that trend is likely to continue. Revenue from broadcasting rights to competitions may pick up as the audience and the demand continues to grow.
The esports and gambling audience
The challenge for esports is monetizing the product. Most of the audience is underage and cannot gamble. Yet, the esports audience could very well be the future gamblers of tomorrow.
With this in mind, the gambling market is trying to align itself with the growing popularity of esports. The World Poker Tour (WPT) recently moved all of its final tables to the E-Sports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas.
The WPT is hoping to appeal to the esports demographic. There is no sense of a crossover between poker and esports. At a time when online poker is failing to gain traction in the US, introducing the sport to groups that have similar interests can be a huge plus.
Joining the WPT in wooing the esports industry is the World Series of Poker. It hosted an esports lounge during the 2018 WSOP.
It is no secret that poker players like their games. The WSOP is hoping the esports lounge will keep players on site and entice esports fanatics to visit the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.
“This is an area that Caesars is really focused on as we try to create new, appealing, innovative gaming, particularly for the millennials,” Ortzman said.
Online casinos, mobile sports betting, and esports
Online gambling continues to show strength and is posting huge revenue numbers in the states where it is legal. Once mobile sports betting launches, expect it to follow this trend. It only makes sense for Atlantic City casinos to complete the trifecta by focusing on esports.
Continent 8’s partnership with the CRDA will add Atlantic City to its other US locations in California, Nevada, and New York.
It wasn’t too long ago that CRDA recently sold hundreds of abandoned properties at auction. The auction resulted in millions of dollars for the city’s coffers, money the city is in desperate need of.
Atlantic City continues to overcome its financial struggles of the past five years. Selling abandoned properties and filling empty space is key to achieving that goal.
“(Continent 8) is an internationally known company who brings high-level services,” Marshall Spevak, deputy executive director of the CRDA said. “They will be a great fit for Atlantic City.”
The new data center and courting the esports industry is another step in the plan to bring Atlantic City back to its heyday.