The following editorial by Senator Chris Brown (R-Atlantic) on turning Atlantic City into an e-sports destination was published by the Press of Atlantic City:
John Madden, the Hall of Fame football coach, once said, “If the quarterback throws the ball in the end zone and the receiver catches it, it’s a touchdown.” It’s a simple bit of advice to guide Atlantic City in becoming an e-sports destination. If we call the right play and execute it, we will have professional and amateur e-sports tournaments, trade shows and conventions, and retail outlets, creating year-round attractions to keep local families working.
Sen. Chris Brown’s editorial on the benefits of turning Atlantic City into an e-sports destination. (SenateNJ.com)
Just as New Jersey took the lead in expanding casino gaming outside of Las Vegas, we now need to be a leader in e-sports.
Becoming an e-sports destination is worth the investment — just ask any parent about Fortnite, an interactive video game that has become the Beatlemania of our time. E-sports is the fastest growing pastime among teenagers and 20-somethings. At any given moment, 3 million gamers are playing Fortnite alone. Madden NFL is one of a handful of game franchises that have sold more than 100 million units. No wonder Fortune 500 companies are looking to sponsor e-sports leagues, teams and athletes (yes, they’re called athletes).
Experts predict the global live e-sports market will grow by 27 percent annually. By 2022, e-sports will generate $1.7 billion in revenue. Further, fantasy leagues based on live e-sports events will grow by 12 percent annually. In comparison, traditional casino gaming grew at a rate of 3.4 percent in 2017. If the goal is to diversify the local tourism economy to be less reliant on traditional casino games, then these numbers have basically written a game plan for us.
Just 67,000 people attended the Super Bowl last year. One month later, 169,000 spectators witnessed the Intel Extreme Masters event, which helps explain how professional gamers can earn seven figures from playing and receiving endorsements. We don’t have to wonder if e-sports will create jobs, we know it does.
In my meetings to help e-sports businesses find a home in Atlantic City, although they made it clear the industry wants to be here, there are other cities competing to attract their business. Arlington, Texas, for example, recently opened a dedicated e-sports arena inside its convention center.
Previously, individual casinos hosted and promoted e-sports events — Gears of War, Rainbow Six and GameACon. While these events were successful, they were small, stutter steps. We need to run through the hole of opportunity with a boom, as Madden would say.
To do that, we need a comprehensive strategy that includes technology upgrades, resort promotion and tax incentives — to take advantage of what e-sports can offer working families.
Continent 8 Technologies’ investment of $5 million to build a 6,000 square foot data center inside the Atlantic City Convention Center to support e-sports is a start. I discussed with CRDA that a similar upgrade should be made to Boardwalk Hall to create multiple venues to attract larger and longer gaming tournaments.
Those upgrades coupled with the CRDA’s recent announcement to invest $700,000 in promoting e-sports events represent a significant call to make Atlantic City gamer-friendly.
Further, e-sports can drive redevelopment. As I have suggested before, the former Trump Plaza site has the potential to be turned into a “technology square” where software or hardware developers, e-sports sponsors can open storefronts or for an e-sports league to open a headquarters. That’s why I have bi-partisan legislation to help the state leverage the federal Opportunity Zones by encouraging businesses to make capital investments in these zones, four of which are in Atlantic City.
No e-sports destination would be complete without a college campus. Imagine Stockton’s Atlantic City campus becoming an incubator and training ground for game coders and developers to collaborate with Sony, Microsoft and EA Sports. This type of public-private collaboration is made easier under the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act. This is why I sponsored the law to allow and encourage companies to invest in Atlantic County by offering a tax credit if they produce video games here.
Making the effort to capture a portion of the e-sports market is a simple, logical play for a resort that already hosts professional sports, college and high schools sports, trade shows and conventions. E-sports opens the door to construction jobs, hospitality jobs, college jobs and, thanks to our sports betting law, more gaming revenue from bets placed on e-sporting teams and athletes to support programs for seniors. There’s no question we should go after e-sports, it’s a question of how much of an e-sports leader we want to be.