ATLANTIC CITY — Could professional video gamers save the resort? Caesars Atlantic City certainly hopes so.
Caesars, hoping to take advantage of the ever-expanding e-sports market, will host the city’s first major e-sports championship event March 31 through April 2. The event will feature more than $200,000 in cash prizes and welcome professional and amateur video gamers from around the globe to the resort.
“Caesars is always looking at ways to bring innovative gaming and entertainment experiences to the market,” said Kevin Ortzman, president of Caesars and Bally’s Atlantic City.
In November, Caesars properties throughout the city introduced skill-based gaming, with payouts determined by, among other things, a player’s ability to shoot at enemies using a joystick. Other casinos followed suit.
The inaugural Gears Pro Circuit Atlantic City Open is an open e-sports circuit for “Gears of War 4,” the latest interactive video game developed by the Coalition and published by Microsoft Studios for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. The game focuses on the conflict between humanity and a subterranean reptilian race.
“I think of Gears eSports tournaments like boxing and UFC matches. It’s entertainment that draws people in to gamble and dine,” said Rob Ambrose, a 29-year-old professional gamer from Philadelphia, whose team Raw Talent will be competing in the event. “It’s good for the city. It makes sense that it’s in a casino, where a variety of gaming already takes place.”
E-sports is a growing industry expected to be worth more than $1.23 billion by 2019, according to a report by Super Data research. More than 213 million people will watch competitive gaming this year, with that number expected to grow to 303 million by 2019, according to the report.
The Atlantic City Open is one of the Gears Pro global circuit events where players can compete in marquee live events throughout North America and around the world.
“They already have an event in the summer in Las Vegas, so having one in Atlantic City just made sense,” Ambrose said. “This area is a hub for the game.”
The event will bring a younger demographic to the city, said Rummy Pandit, executive director of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University. The e-sports audience is 85 percent male and nearly half are between the ages of 18 and 25, according to Super Data Research.
“This brings a new segment to the city,” Pandit said. “This is great exposure for the city through people watching this event and social media.”
E-sports players travel the world playing in lucrative events, including the Dota 2 International at Key Arena in Seattle, the former home of the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics. The event, which started in 2011, featured more than $20 million in 2016.
“Gears eSports is proud to be partnering with Caesars Entertainment on this major championship event in Atlantic City,” said Jack Felling, lead eSports Producer on Gears of War at Microsoft. “We are excited to work with a flagship brand like Caesars and are exploring future opportunities to bring innovative entertainment experiences to their properties around the world. We look forward to welcoming Gears of War, Xbox and video game fans from the area to watch some of the most passionate personalities in eSports compete live in Atlantic City.”