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UNLV, Caesars open technology lab in Las Vegas

Tucked away on the fourth floor of the UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park lies the hotel-casino of the future.

The mock resort-casino space inside the new Black Fire Innovation hub provides an open environment where students, startups and companies can collaborate and test technology for the the gaming and hospitality industry. The hub held its grand opening Thursday morning.

Like most Strip casinos; there are blackjack tables, slot machines and even a sportsbook. But there’s also offerings that have yet to hit most properties, including an esports studio, virtual reality lab and internet-of-thing enabled guest rooms.

“There’s nothing like this anywhere else in the country,” said Caesars Entertainment Corp. CEO Tony Rodio. “It’s possible that revolutionary ideas will be conceived and perfected by Black Fire Innovation. Those ideas may lead to a superior guest room experience, a new table game, a new slot.”

Collaborating for the future

The 43,000-square-foot space was formed through a collaboration between Caesars and UNLV, and aims to bring the university and local businesses together to test, develop and commercialize hospitality products and ideas.

For example, the casino space can be used to demonstrate how table games can integrate computer vision technology or new signage, according to Andrew Baca, Director of Business Innovation and Technology Strategy at Caesars.

The “unencumbered environment lets students, researchers, startups use it without there being a disruption to the guest experience,” Baca said.

It could also lead students to job opportunities in Las Vegas.

“One of the goals of Black Fire is that students get hands-on technical experience with leading tech platforms,” Baca said. “(We want them to) enter the job market with credentials in those platforms and the experience we look for as an employer.”

Alongside the replica resort-casino, the space also includes shared co-working space, conference rooms, full-service kitchen, a classroom as well as office space for partners such as Intel and cloud computing company Nutanix.

‘Just the tip of the iceberg’

The hub takes up a floor and a half of UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology park, located on the northeast corner of Sunset Road and Durango Drive in the southwest valley.

This facility is expected to be the first of many in the 122-acre research and technology park, which is being developed by the Gardner Company. CEO Christian Gardner said he expects to build another 10 to 12 facilities in the park.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Zach Miles, UNLV’s associate vice president for economic development. “More buildings will go up that will support sports research, that will support other innovations within the community.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak said this hub could help spur economic development and diversification in Southern Nevada by bringing tech companies to Southern Nevada.

The park creates “opportunities for collaboration between industry and academia that simply aren’t possible on many college campuses today,” Sisolak said.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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