ESports Betting Approved In New Jersey For Video Game Gambling Pioneer

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GameCo, which introduced video game gambling in the U.S. by setting up such games in Atlantic City casinos in 2016, announced on Wednesday that it has been approved to branch out in the state.

A Casino Service Industry Enterprise License has been issued to GameCo by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, allowing the company to offer eSports betting and skill-based iGaming products to New Jersey casinos and sportsbooks.

In April, GameCo announced a deal with Berlin-based GRID, a leading eSports data platform, that sets GameCo up for data, odds, and trading on regulated eSports betting.

The skill-based iGaming offerings will feature GameCo’s patent-pending GamersEdge technology.

“We are thrilled to receive approval from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, and we are looking forward to bringing our exclusive range of products and experiences to such a robust and innovating gaming market,” said Blaine Graboyes, co-founder and CEO of GameCo. “GameCo pioneered the video game gambling category in New Jersey, and we plan to do the same with eSports betting and skill-based iGaming, satisfying a massive demand from Gen X and millennial players.”

Video eSports games coming to Atlantic City casinos

GameCo is also poised to release its “Multiplayer Arena,” the first eSports solution for land-based casinos. Multiplayer Arena allows players to compete head-to-head or in eSports-style tournaments, directly on the casino floor — providing casinos with a way to capture and monetize the eSports phenomenon.

The first Multiplayer Arena games will include All-Star Hoops, a 3D basketball video game, and SoulCaliburII: Casino Edition from Bandai Namco, one of the most popular fighting games of all time — and the first-ever AAA video game for casinos.

The New Jersey approval comes after successful expansion and installation in several other markets such as Nevada, California, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.

GameCo LLC is privately held and headquartered in Las Vegas with additional offices in New York City.

The challenge for GameCo here is the same as it has been for its video game gambling products: lure a younger audience that typically doesn’t visit casinos, and get casino “regulars” to try out the games.

Many millennials who grew up playing video games don’t reflexively connect that enjoyment to risking money. The video game gambling machines feature 10,000 or more similar-looking boards for games such as Danger Arena, a first-person shooting contest.

If a player is lucky enough to land an “easy” board, it’s not much effort to make a profit. But land an extremely difficult version, and you might need to be an elite first-person shooter gamer just to break even.

Players can choose to sit or stand as they take about 45 seconds to shoot as many robots on the video screen as they can. Bets range from 50 cents to $20. It takes seven hits to break even, Graboyes said, with a maximum prize of 25 times the bet for hitting 10 or more robots.

The challenge of video game gambling

The games in Atlantic City initially were set up to allow for plenty of observers to “join in,” a la a weekend night craps game.

But Graboyes found out that since players were new to the game, they tended to avoid them because of the possibility of being watched. So he moved some of the games into a corner, so players could gain command without strangers looking on.

Both Danger Arena and Pharaoh’s Secret Temple, an unofficial cousin of Candy Crush, debuted at the Caesars properties in Atlantic City and lasted only six months.

Tropicana and Borgata tried out Nothing But Net, a skill-based basketball shooting game. Foxwoods casino in Connecticut also has tried out several GameCo products.

Graboyes spent his summers as a youth playing video games at the arcade on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, so these efforts are a labor of love for him.

But attracting sufficient customers to justify casino floor space can be a challenge. In the COVID-19 era, however, products that might lure a younger audience that could be less wary of visiting a casino could be a winner.

Plus in this new era, it’s possible that an online casino-style product played by customers in their own homes could gain more of a following. Only four years ago, GameCo’s sole focus with video game gambling was on in-person play. Times have certainly changed.

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John Brennan

John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record.

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