CARSON CITY — Beneath the Luxor Sky Beam, video games have found a foothold.
The Luxor is home to the 30,000-square-foot HyperX Esports Arena, the first of its kind on the Strip. It’s become a nexus for the rapidly expanding sport in which gamers compete against each other in tournaments, sometimes for cash prizes.
“We work with all the big game publishers and try to attract their esports events to Nevada, obviously with our place being the destination for all that,” said Jud Hannigan, the CEO of Allied Esports, which owns the HyperX arena.
The esports scene has recently drawn the attention of the Nevada Legislature. Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, has introduced a bill to create the Nevada Esports Commission to regulate electronic sports events.
“This is an effort to bring new events to our state by doing one of the things that Nevada has always done well, which is working with industry to make them want to be here,” Kieckhefer said.
Kieckhefer presented information at a recent hearing showing esports viewership is expected to increase from 454 million viewers in 2019 to 646 million in 2023. Digital ad revenue from esports has grown from $142.5 million in 2018 to an estimated $225.8 million this year, he said.
“This is an incredibly popular sport all over the world, both online and in person,” Kieckhefer said.
During a committee hearing Wednesday, Paul Hamilton, president and CEO of Atlanta Esports Ventures, said his goal is to turn Las Vegas into an “esports mecca.” The company has investments in two esports teams, the Atlanta Reign of the Overwatch League and the Atlanta FaZe of the Call of Duty League.
“The goal here is not to put up so many guardrails that we prohibit esports from coming or scare people away, but to show the publishers and the public that we understand it in a way that we can help make it better, bring it here and cast it in the biggest light possible,” Hamilton said.
Lisa Motley, director of sports marketing and special events for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, called Las Vegas a “growing hub” for esports.
The bill would create a three-person committee to regulate esports events with prize purses over $1,000. Kieckhefer has proposed an amendment to increase the commission to five members and create a technical advisory committee of esports professionals, including game publishers, event organizers and players. The committee would advise the commission on esports standards and sanctioning. Members would not receive compensation.
The amendment would also remove the $1,000 threshold for events sanctioned by the commission, which would decide which tournaments would be regulated.
“There are different ways that you can slice it up, right? There are collegiate tournaments, there are amateur tournaments, there are professional tournaments, there are a bunch of buddies who want to get together to throw a tournament,” he said. “I think experts should be able to make the decision about what types of events should be sanctioned and they should set that threshold.”
Kieckhefer said the commission could also address issues such as allegations of match fixing or point shaving.
“This would be the first (body) that really has some sort of regulatory oversight where it tries to establish standards and ensure that they’re followed and enforced, and I think what’s really interesting about that is we’re not alone in thinking about it,” he said. Regulatory measures are also being discussed in Japan and the European Union.
Hannigan said there’s a push in the esports community to ensure integrity, and the industry takes cheating violations seriously.
He said his company wants to be an active partner on any issue that would positively impact the esports community.
“When you think about Las Vegas, it’s so well positioned with all of the hotels, the entertainment, the infrastructure … for continued growth and attracting esports events,” Hannigan said.
Kieckhefer said a light-touch regulatory body would give esports a further boost.
“You don’t want to use the term legitimize because it might undermine what happened already, but it will create a little more authority, I think, and there’s value in that,’ Kieckhefer said. “When a government starts taking something like this more seriously, that should give confidence to investors to put money into companies in this ecosystem.”
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