Published: February 28, 2023

Can esports become the next March Madness?

College basketball’s NCAA tournament, also known as March Madness, brings together fans from across the country to gamble on games in Las Vegas. Esports has the potential to bring similar excitement to the city and other locales in the future, according to an industry executive.

The Casino Esports Conference kicked off its first day of panel discussions Tuesday by reviewing the esports industry and the video-gaming culture and why they should matter to the gambling industry.

Esports is popular among kids and young adults who play in or watch competitions, but has yet to be fully embraced by casinos. Nevada gaming regulators only recently allowed wagering on esports competitions without seeking special approval.

“Casinos are interested in wagering and that’s what the future is,” said Ari Fox, conference founder. “This town goes nuts. over March Madness Fans and gamblers are in the sportsbooks and on the wagering apps putting money on the different college teams. Will that end up being video gaming in the future?”

Fox said the gambling industry can’t sit idly by, but has to change what it’s offering younger audiences to secure future customers.

Christian Bishop, director of streaking-platformTwitch Properties, said that esports wagering, especially in Europe, has underwritten the sport for many years. The problem is that it hasn’t been “on the most up-and-up side of things globally.” Bishop, who served on Nevada’s Esports Technical Advisory Committee in Nevada, said there’s a push to do things the right way, protect people, and make sure it’s safe.

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