Esports bill aims to draw large, and lucrative, video game tournaments to Nevada

Video gaming tournaments are big business, and soon they could be regulated by a state commission, the same way boxing and MMA are regulated by the Nevada Athletic Commission, which could help bring the larger events here.

Video gaming tournaments are big business, and soon they could be regulated by a state commission, the same way boxing and MMA are regulated by the Nevada Athletic Commission, which could help bring the larger events here.

State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, a Republican who represents Carson City and parts of southern Washoe County, has sponsored SB 165, which would create a three-member Nevada esports Commission under the state Department of Business and Industry.

Esports is an umbrella term for competitions in which individuals or teams compete against one another by playing video games.

Similar to the Nevada Athletic Commission, the panel would sanction and oversee video game tournaments and competitions, and require gamers to register before participating in any event with a purse exceeding $1,000.

"I'm looking at it primarily from an economic development perspective," Kieckhefer said of forming a commission.

He said a commission could help tourism by bringing esports events to the state.

"That's the hope," he said. "Just like the success story of the Athletic Commission and MMA. That partnership with those events really helped that industry explode and grow to what it is today."

In 2019, nearly 5,300 esports tournaments were conducted worldwide with more than 27,000 players, watched by millions either live or online. It's estimated esports will bring in nearly $1.6 billion in annual revenue by 2023, compared with $950 million in 2020, Kieckhefer said.

Kieckhefer said that globally, an estimated $15 billion a year is wagered on esports, and that it's the seventh-largest sports event in the world in terms of wagering, equal to golf and tennis.

The new 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, could hold huge events like the typically sold-out League of Legends World Championship, Kieckhefer said.

The League of Champions World Championship is held at rotating venues each fall. The final in 2018 was watched by 99.6 million unique viewers, with concurrent viewership reaching a peak of 44 million viewers, breaking 2017's final's viewership record of 60 million people.

The last time Worlds were held in North America, in 2016, they were held at venues in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

Kieckhefer said esports events would not all necessarily be held in Southern Nevada.

"There's a great opportunity for Reno and Northern Nevada to create a name for itself in this space as well," he said. "You've got those big tournaments, but you've also got ongoing events that happen continuously throughout the year, kind of like what we see with the (National) Bowling Stadium. That place brings in people continuously."

Next up for the bill is a hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary. From there it would go to the Finance committee, because it will require funding.

Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on Twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to 

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