ESports Betting Arrives in Las Vegas at William Hill Sportsbook

on November 22, 2016
eSports betting William Hill Downtown Grand

The Downtown Grand Casino’s video gaming lounge is now licensed for eSports betting through its William Hill sportsbook. (Image: Jason Ogulnik/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

ESports betting lines are up and running at the William Hill Sportsbook at the Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas.

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, at the recommendation of Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) Gaming Policy Committee, issued its first eSports betting license. The recipient was William Hill, one of the most well-known sportsbook operators in the world.

ESports is any form of electronic video gaming where teams or players compete against one another. Once restricted to small gatherings, today eSports tournaments come with multimillion-dollar prize pools.

Sandoval said of the eSports permit issuance, “This announcement is a major step toward ensuring Nevada becomes the eSports capital of the world. By embracing this unique opportunity . . . we’re expanding the potential of one of our oldest industries.”

The eSports betting won’t simply be included in William Hill’s laundry list of odds. Instead, the Downtown Grand has constructed an entire eSports lounge dedicated to the emerging industry.

“We are proud that the Downtown Grand will be the home to the first regulated eSports wager in America,” Fifth Street Gaming CEO Seth Schorr, the parent company to Downtown Grand, said in a statement. “The team at the Downtown Grand has worked hard to establish itself as a truly unique eSports destination.”

Welcome to New Vegas

Slots remain the bread and butter of casinos, but many believe a slow changing of the guard is being experienced in gambling. When it comes to preferences, it’s believed that the millennial isn’t too keen on playing slot machines or other games that are predominantly based upon luck.

Though Penn National CEO Tim Wilmott told shareholders during a recent conference call that focusing on millennials is not a good business strategy, Fifth Street is preparing its flagship Vegas property for the next wave of gaming.

“We’re incredibly committed to the space,” Schorr told the Las Vegas Review-Journal over the summer. “We see that this is going to be a major part of the Las Vegas experience.”

It’s hard to argue with Schorr, as the global eSports market is already valued at nearly $1 billion. And revenues are only expected to climb over the next five years.

A-Rod & eSports

Think eSports is just a bunch of video gamers sitting in basements battling one another through the internet? While that might have been the case in years past, eSports in 2016 are contested in front of live audiences numbering in the tens of thousands.

ESports tournaments have attracted some marquee professional athletes.

The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers purchased the rights two eSports teams and allow them to train with their medical and nutritional staff. And Alex Rodriguez and Shaquille O’Neal, two of the biggest names in the respective sports, own stake in NRG eSports, a firm that recruits and finances eSports squads.

Owning and operating eSports franchises has the potential to become big business. The International, the richest annual eSports tournament, paid out more than $20.7 million in winnings during the 2016 competition held in August.