The COVID-19 virus has upended the world, with esports being no exception. Similar to the traditional sports industry, most live esports and videogame events and conferences have been postponed indefinitely or canceled for 2020.

These suspensions have had a massive and immediate impact on the esports industry. Numerous companies are laying off staff and postponing events for the foreseeable future, voiding ticket sales, concessions, sponsorships and other bottom-line critical event revenue streams.

However, true to the competitive nature of videogames, several esports companies are utilizing their ability to move events from the real world to the online world as a means to keep calm, carry on, and help others in need.

The gaming community is tightly knit and the instinct to come together is strong. Raised on social media, which is not affected by the need to socially distance oneself, millennial and Gen-Z gamers are banding together, via their mobile phones, gaming consoles and computers, to provide critical outlets for the gaming community to help.

Our Atlantic City-based company is helping organize one such outlet in the upcoming “Shutdown Showdown,” a nationwide online charity gaming event that will help provide vulnerable kids with nutritious food during these uncertain times. Esports teams, organizations, broadcasters and gamers are working together to utilize the time they are being asked to stay indoors into something meaningful and impactful.

Having the honor to work with the American Heart Association in my capacity as the inaugural chair of their Gaming and Youth Task Force, I have witnessed gamers, educators and videogame companies knock down the association’s door to be a part of its upcoming health initiative, the Heart of a Champion.

This new initiative will focus on exercise and wellness programs for kids of all ages. The American Heart Association’s goal in entering this space is to help players learn healthier habits that simultaneously help them become better, more competitive esports players. If gamers plan on spending a lot of time in the virtual world, they need to take care of their bodies in the real world.

For the past several months we’ve been hard at work planning a kickoff event for this nationwide initiative. As a resident, I know this region shines when it comes to hospitality and genuinely welcoming groups to its hotels, restaurants and casinos. To that effect we are doing everything possible to launch the Heart of a Champion in this area and maintain that the event stays here as a recurring regional esports event.

As discussed in the March 2018 Atlantic City Story podcast, esports will also help expand Atlantic City’s entertainment offerings to families and younger generations. Since that podcast was recorded, our company has assisted the New Jersey State Assembly in their efforts to legalize esports gambling. Earlier this month, Assembly Bill A637 was unanimously approved by the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. This is a groundbreaking first step, but more work is needed as the bill now awaits a vote by the New Jersey Senate.

Encouragingly, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement is singularly focused on ensuring esports gambling becomes a reality in New Jersey. Their important efforts will guarantee that an entire new generation of visitors will see Atlantic City as a gaming mecca for decades to come, once again propelling it into the national spotlight, perhaps this time as Esports’ Favorite Playground.

Right now, the world is a confusing and frightening place, but if we hold steady and continue to plan for the future, this will not just survive, it will thrive. Esports can be the key.

Anthony Gaud, of Linwood, is CEO of Gaud-Hammer Gaming Group and chair of the American Heart Association Gaming & Youth Task Force.

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