[toc]By building an esports lounge, one notable East Coast developer could be following the lead of a downtown Las Vegas casino.
Developer Glenn Straub told the Associated Press that, among many other extravagant offerings, his Revel casino project in Atlantic City will offer an esports lounge. The resort is scheduled to open on Wednesday, according to the AP, while the casino portion, Straub said, is slated to open by late August.
Lounge development in early stages
The conceptualization of the lounge still appears to be in the early stages.
The Press of Atlantic City reported that the 69-year-old Straub was recently wading through “stacks of obsolescent computer equipment, trying to determine if any of it would prove useful for an e-sports operation.”
The same report cited Straub as saying the lounge will feature prominently in the property, but did not specify if it was to be located in the casino or resort. The AP reported that the lounge would allow esports fans to follow skilled players.
Esports lounges are also being pioneered elsewhere in the country, and are thought to be key drivers at opening up the esports wagering market.
Most notably, Fifth Street Gaming CEO Seth Schorr has worked to develop an esports epicenter in Las Vegas at the Downtown Grand Hotel, where he told ESBR he’s banking on the appeal of terrestrial gaming experiences. The hotel’s esports lounge is focused on enhancing the live event experience for players and esports fans — it holds live tournaments and offers esports fans a place watch online tournaments — as well as “generating a stepping stone for future video game wagering.”
Lounge wagering could take variety of forms
Wagering at esports lounges can take many forms, including esports players staking money on their performance against other competitors, or traditional sports book-style wagering in which observers of either in-person or online tournaments can bet on teams or players.
By far the largest form of esports wagering is skins wagering, a projected $5 billion market in which players wager weapons skins that have real-money value on the outcomes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Defense of the Ancients 2 matches.
Fifth Street Gaming had applied to the Nevada Gaming Control Board to offer esports wagering as early as this July, but Schorr told ESBR that the company retracted that application and submitted a new one centered on an event in October that would allow for the first wager on esports to take place this fall.
Is esports wagering legal in New Jersey?
The Revel would likely have to follow a similar path if it wanted to offer esports wagering, a component that a lounge on a casino property would likely offer. Straub told reporters that the casino is still awaiting final certification from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
According to a NJDGE attorney, esports tournaments in which players themselves wager on their own performance is skill-based and therefore legal. No casinos have yet notified the NJDGE that they wish to offer such a tournament, the spokesman said.
Some forms of esports wagering are already happening in the state.
For example, Gaimerz, a website that facilitates esports players wagering on their own performance, is offered in New Jersey. An explanatory section of its website borrows language from the current daily fantasy sports debate, saying that esports players wagering on themselves constitutes a “Game of Skill.”
It rationalizes the legality of its offering by citing the three types of tests state gambling laws use to determine whether a game is skill-based.
According to the New Jersey state criminal code, gambling is defined as staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance, which itself is defined as “any contest, game, pool, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance.”
Forbes’ contributor and sports lawyer Darren Heitner wrote earlier this year that because Gaimerz wagers do not involve “the staking or risking by any person of something of value upon the outcome of a contest of others,” they do not run afoul of the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
The state is entering its eighth year of a legal fight to allow single-game sports wagering within its borders. A ruling in that Third Circuit Court of Appeals case is expected at any point this summer.
The biggest bust in Atlantic City history
Straub is trying to recover from what is known as the biggest Atlantic City bust of all-time.
The $2.4 billion property went bankrupt twice, closed its doors in September 2014, and was one of four Atlantic City casinos to shut down that year. Straub nabbed the resort from bankruptcy court last year for $82 million, just pennies on the dollar of the original price. The developer is famous for taking over and breathing new life into bankrupt properties.
One should take Straub’s promises with a grain of salt. The sometimes friend and sometimes enemy of Donald Trump has guaranteed an eccentric array of attractions at Revel that include “a skydiving machine where you have a big propeller that blows you up off the ground,” “frozen mountains with ski runs and moto cross tracks,” and “mud runs that will raise $1 million a day for cancer charities.”
The entire project seems ambitious and ambiguous. Despite being scheduled to open Wednesday, the 900-room resort reportedly doesn’t yet have a name. There is also no phone number or website for the property.
Straub said anyone who discovers the hotel is open is welcome to check in.
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