June 24, 2019

5 minutes with Blaine Graboyes

Blaine is Co-Founder and CEO of GameCo, inventor of the video game casino and creator of the Video Game Gambling Machine (VMG™). Blaine also co-founded The Gamer Agency, the premiere independent esports production company, acquired by Engine Shop. Graboyes is an award-winning Executive Producer and Game Designer with over twenty years’ experience developing digital entertainment. He has produced over 4,000 projects for world-renowned entertainment, business, and fine arts clients such as Blizzard Entertainment, Ubisoft, DreamWorks, Mattel, Sony, Disney, Nickelodeon, DIRECTV, Warner Bros., and The Guggenheim and Whitney Museums. His work has been recognized with numerous awards including the 16th Annual GGB Gaming & Technology Awards Silver Medal, an RIAA Platinum album, and IGN Editor’s Choice Award. Blaine is an active member of the Producers Guild Of America (PGA) serving on multiple boards and co-chair of the 2014 and 2015 Produced By: New York conferences.

1. How do you see the future of the gambling industries and the esports industries colliding?


To be meaningful to the casino, esports needs to move out of the conference centers and dedicated arenas and onto the casino floor. This will require meaningful innovation from licensed and regulated suppliers and manufactures. Casinos want products that are “normalized” with the casino gaming operations. Solutions will include competitive video game gambling products and esports betting product. We’re starting to see these types of solutions developing and we can expect to see these products live on casino floors in 2019 and beyond.


One important evolution needs to be moving beyond hyperbole into reality and aligning the current state of the market with casino’s needs. The quotes that an esports event has larger viewership than some traditional sports event are comparing apples and oranges. This does not benefit the meaningful application of esports in casinos. And the focus on major stadium events is also not helpful, as these events are both uncommon (generally less than ten total per year in North America across all esports) and are definitely not profitable (they’re designed as marketing platforms for everyone involved). Being realistic about the esports industry and the impact it can have on casinos is critical today.


2. In what ways do esports need to be regulated for them to be utilized in the gambling world?


If it's gambling, it should be licensed and regulated. But there can and should be different tiers and types of licenses for different products and services. This exists today in gaming jurisdictions and can be applied to companies bringing esports to casinos. For esports betting, regulation should fall under existing paradigms for traditional sports betting – after all, esports is sports. For physical products, this would typically be a manufacturer or distributor license in most jurisdictions. If innovative new products fall outside of these categories, it’s likely that gaming regulators in a given jurisdiction can work with companies to find the right licensure.


3.  What do you see other than esports as a portal to a metamorphosis of the casino market?


Esports has captured the attention and interest of casinos as it demonstrates a new market of younger customers beyond the traditional slot machine players. The average slot player its a 58 year old female and the average age of slot players is increasing by one year every year due a lack of new customers. Esports shows that gamers and fans want to engage, compete, and gamble. One way to leverage from esports is to utilize the power and reach of live-streaming content. It’s surprising that every casino does not have a Twitch channel. It’s such a powerful tool for marketing and player acquisition. We’re also seeing the development of “store-in-store” spaces inside of casino, specifically designed for younger and different audiences. These are customers that want to enjoy the hospitality, amenities, and offerings of casinos but are not attracted to the “old casino” layout and experience. Such venues are expensive endeavors but present a massive opportunity for the industry - particularly as they are directly integrated with the casino floor and gaming operations.


4. In what ways can esports be implemented in the casino market other than wagering


The most obvious and exciting is competitive video game gambling products, which are coming later in 2019. This will allow players to compete directly on the casino floor in both head-to-head formats and bracketed tournaments, similar to professional esports events. The key is products that are “normalized” with the casino’s gaming operation, which technically means integration with a bill validator, TITO ticket printer, and player tracking system connected to a Casino Management System. These technologies are standard for slot machines and allow the casino to capture, analyze, and manage revenues in a normalized fashion with the rest of their gaming operation. It also allows casinos to track player activity, provide rewards to players, and conduct targeted marketing.  Without this level of integration and communication with the casino, it’s limited to “landlord / tenant” arrangements.


5.  What ways can we make sure that esports is only promoted in the casino market to a 21-and-over the audience?


Well, that’s challenging because everyone has access to social media and websites. The key is to be compliant with regulations and to control messaging to appeal to the right audience. It’s hard to stop the flow of content in a digital age but it’s easy to have the right intentions, policies, and processes. Once on property, the good thing about offering products and services inside of casinos is that the casinos are experts at managing access and restricting underage customers from entering the gaming floor.

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