MGM Resorts has been paying attention. The company has watched viewership of esports, or competitive video gaming, climb on major networks. It's seen the number of international tournaments grow. It's even hosted a few at its Las Vegas properties. But in late March, the hospitality giant made its largest commitment to joining the esports community when it debuted the Esports Arena Las Vegas inside the Luxor Hotel and Casino.
The space that formerly housed LAX nightclub has become an interactive video-gaming mecca, where visitors can experience virtual reality gaming, play complimentary classic arcade games, explore an exhibit on the history of gaming, compete on one of more than 100 PCs or watch a professional tournament with international teams going head to head.
"Las Vegas is our flagship, and we built it to be our championship destination," said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports International, the company behind the new venue. Allied also operates five other arenas and two mobile trucks, including facilities in Orange County, Calif.; Hamburg, Germany; and Beijing. "We plan to complement our global tournaments with Las Vegas as our championship destination and utilize the idea of winning your way to Las Vegas as the wow factor that will drive participation and attendance to our events throughout our global property network."
The Vegas location, Hannigan added, is twice the size of the company's other spaces and focuses on the interactive experience. The venue is free to enter, and guests can purchase all-day gaming passes for $25. Regular tournaments will welcome spectators and participants for varying fees. The arena will also feature professional tournaments that can be broadcast around the world via an in-house production studio with 24 cameras.
And since this is Las Vegas, the arena boasts a full food and beverage program with a menu of casual dishes and snacks from chef Jose Andres — including rice bowls, flatbreads and sandwiches — and two bars.
Nik Rytterstrom, president and COO of Luxor, sees the venue appealing to esports fans, players of traditional video games and mainstream sports fans who can catch a game on the big screen while they grab a bite.
"It's a 30,000-square-foot, multilevel arena unlike any other in the industry, and certainly unlike anything here in Las Vegas," he said.
However, the new venue isn't the only game in town for esports aficionados. The Downtown Grand has been catering to video gamers for years with an esports lounge and team sponsorships. Last year it started offering wagering on competitive video gaming, and Fifth Street Gaming CEO Seth Schorr was a founding director of the Nevada Esports Alliance, a nonprofit created in 2017 to solidify Las Vegas as an esports destination.
Last year also marked the arrival of the city's first dedicated esports arena, Millennial Esports' 15,000-square-foot venue Downtown at Neonopolis.
The Luxor's arena is the first to bring a permanent esports experience to the Strip, and so far, Hannigan said, interest has been high, with guests wandering in after seeing Allied's giant logo plastered over the resort's pyramid.
"With all of the global attention that esports is receiving, there's no limit to the interest in checking out what the arena has to offer," he said.