Esports amenities attract customers to the Downtown Grand

On a recent Friday night, Isaac Perez walked out of the Downtown Grand casino $250 richer.

But it wasn’t because he wagered his money at a slot machine or tried his hand at blackjack.

He won a “Street Fighter V” video game tournament.

“We are at the convergence of eSports and gaming,” said Carson Knuth, co-founder of LEET, a startup that has been operating esports tournaments at the Downtown Grand since January. “Our whole vision is that the 21st or 22nd casino floor would be video games and gambling.”

The Downtown Grand debuted its eSports lounge, which is across from blackjack tables on the casino floor, in January. Since opening, the lounge has been open twice weekly, with plans to expand to three nights a week in July, four in August, and eventually, six or seven days a week.

Renovations are planned, including custom arcade cabinets, at least 12 gaming pods with a PlayStation, an Xbox and a computer, and a custom menu of foods on skewers, so players can avoid “sticky fingers.”

“We’re incredibly committed to the space,” Fifth Street Gaming CEO Seth Schorr said. “We’re investing a lot of money into the space, both from an infrastructure standpoint but also resources — partnering with local companies, hiring our internal staff, it’s a huge commitment. We see that this is going to be a major part of the Las Vegas experience.”

VIDEO GAMES: A SPORT?

On that same Friday, Steven Linakis, 23, of Las Vegas experienced a loss when he and his chosen character, Alex, faced Perez and his chosen character, Necalli, in the finals of the “Street Fighter V” tournament — a fighting game that pits two characters against each other.

“We always have close matches,” Perez, 31, of Las Vegas said.

Linakis said it wasn’t an easy loss to take. In heat four of the tournament, he beat Perez, who was then moved into the loser’s bracket. Perez topped Yong Shin and faced Linakis again in the finals.

That’s where Linakis’ character, Alex succumbed to blows dealt by Perez’s character, Necalli.

“It’s a game, it’s like a sport,” Linakis said. “It’s easy to get competitive with it.”

“Street Fighter V” is Linakis’ game of choice. He started playing it about three years ago and has tried to perfect his craft. He recently placed 17th out of about 500 competitors at the Combo Breaker tournament — a competitive fighting game event in Illinois.

“It’s the only game I play,” he said. “When you take them to a high level, a professional level, they’re kind of hard to do multiple things. It’s kind of like trying to be an NFL player as well as an NBA player. It’s a one or none kind of thing.”

Not only does Linakis play the game, but he watches other people play.

“I watch other professional players from other places play so I can learn new things and see high-level playing that I can adapt to and learn,” he said.

Felipe Sarmiento, 30, of Las Vegas, agrees.

“I kind of want to watch it to see who wins, how people play, the moves I can learn, what characters people like,” he said.

Sarmiento and Linakis agree that although esports brings out players’ competitiveness, they also engender community spirit.

“You’re surprised that other people like the same stuff you like. It’s awesome,” Sarmiento said.

A tournament featuring the game “Overwatch” — a multiplayer, first-person shooter game — attracted about 70 participants to the Downtown Grand and 30 people who came to simply watch the evening unfold.

“eSports is becoming a spectator sport, that’s the crazy thing about it,” Knuth said.

He said Twitch.tv, a live, video-game streaming site, which Amazon bought for $1 billion and which attracts more than 100 million viewers a month, validates his observation.

“The ability to have people control that, it’s absolutely wild,” Knuth said. “One person is able to play at home, doing their thing, and control 150,000 people viewing them. It changes the paradigm essentially of what we assume sports are. It would be like Michael Jordan playing a personal game of one-on-one for you.”

SKILL-BASED GAMING

Although he sees millennials at the blackjack tables in the pit, Schorr said the group gives slot machines little love. He believes the machines will become more skill-based in the future.

“They really want to be rewarded on their skill, and they want transparency,” he said.

Schorr said although some of the latest slot machines have gotten bigger and more impressive, they’re confusing, leaving millennials wondering about what is creating the outcome of their wager.

“The millennial, generally, is offended by that,” Schorr said. “They really want to know that they can get better at something — that they can improve and that they get more based on their skill level.”

Sarmiento agreed, saying slot machines are “rigged.”

“I hate slots,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll pay out, but overall, they’re just going to take your money. At least here, if you’re actually good at playing a game, you can enter a competition and make good money.”

The Downtown Grand’s plans to have eSports wagering. This year, the casino’s sports book will starts taking bets on major professional eSports tournaments.

They are also working with the Gaming Control Board to create a “poker-style model” for eSports. Today, the property has a fixed entry free and a fixed prize.

“The way that we see this going is a model where you can bet as you play, as opposed to betting once and entering a contest,” he said.

The company is working on its eSports plans patiently, aiming to execute them properly.

“With this audience, everything has be to done well, and authentically,” Schorr said. “If we don’t have the right oversight, the right program, it’s not worth doing. We want to exceed everyone’s expectations.”

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Find @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like