Two More Major Esports Player Associations Are in the Works

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Esports just keeps getting better and better in almost every way possible with the most recent development being the move to put together player associations to cater for professional video gamers who play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s association will include players in the FACEIT ECS as well as the ESL Pro. It is led by attorney Michael Doi and Esports broadcaster Scott “SirScoots” Smith.

In an interview with Sports Business Journal, Scott Smith said that the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association (CSPPA) will not be looking to establish itself as a United States Union simply because Counter-Strike players originate from many different parts of the world. However, the association will be working towards signing all of the 255 professional players.

“Every day I sign another guy,” he said. “I would say 70 or so have signed an official membership document that they are for the players association, are behind the players association, they want to be in the players association.”

There has not been any official news regarding the Overwatch players association but the officials have confirmed that formal details on the same will be availed in around four months. The Overwatch player association efforts are being led by former player and Overwatch coach Thomas “Morte” Kerbusch and sports labour attorney Ellen Zavian. It is reported that the Overwatch association is likely to be modelled after existing U.S. unions like the National Football League (NFL) Players Association.

“I don’t see this [players association] as any different than any other PA just because it’s eSports,” Zavian said. “So this isn’t something that will be a lighthearted step. This will be a big step.”

If the two associations are formed successfully they will be joining the Riot Games’ League of Legends players association that is ran by Hal Biagas. Esports player associations are still in the very first stages of development but many agree that it is certainly a logical step for competitive video gaming as it draws nearer to being a mainstream activity, just like traditional professional sports.

Alibaba Endorses Non- Violent Esports Titles for Olympics

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Alibaba Group Holding Limited has come out to publicly promote the inclusion of competitive video gaming among other Olympic games so long as the games do not feature elements of gore or violence. The company, which is the largest e-commerce company and also an Esports business operator in one of the sponsors of the Olympics Games through to 2018. The games that the e-commerce company is endorsing for the Olympics include soccer, car racing among many Olympic-friendly games.

This move will essentially ban some of Esports most beloved titles from the Olympics. For obvious reasons, League of Legends, as well as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, will definitely not make the cut for Olympic inclusion. The two Esports titles are distributed by Tencent Holdings Limited in China, one of Alibaba’s competitors.

Esports has grown to become one of the biggest entertainment businesses, drawing in spectators to huge arenas where the video gamers compete for prizes and glory. Statistical projections see the business soaring to up to $5 billion in annual revenue from ticket sales, broadcast rights, advertising and merchandising.

“In our communication with the Olympics committee, we’ve come to have a better understanding of their values, which is to promote peace,” Alisports chief executive office Zhang Dazhong said in a telephone interview. “That’s why for the future development of esports, we will focus more on titles that are actually related to sports, instead of games that focus on violence and slaughter.”

Alibaba has been very serious about its venture into Esports – it is investing $47 million in Esports this year through to march. The company will also be hosting the World Electronic Sports Games this week and being a member of the International Olympic Committee, Alibaba officials will also be attending to observe.

According to Zhang, game producers will need to be open to the idea of having to share their intellectual property for free at events. Also, the titles need to have a considerably large fan base to be considered for the Olympics.

“We think as a third party Esports organizer we’re a better match for principles that the Olympics promotes, which is fairness,” Zhang said, adding that Alibaba will boost its investment in its Esports unit in 2018.

German FA President Opposes Induction of Esports As Sports

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According to Reinhard Grindel, the President of Germany’s Football Association (DFB), Esports is not a sports activity thus the induction of competitive gaming into the Olympics is bizarrely absurd. This was on Sunday 4th March 2018 when the members of Germany’s social democratic party opened the way for joining the country’s government as a junior partner in a grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel. This new development came with more certainty that Esports could soon be recognized as sports in accordance with guidelines set out by the coalition governments.

As it stands, Esports has amassed over 250 million players from all around the globe which makes for a steadily growing market that currently rakes in more than a billion dollars every year. This is more than what a decent number of traditional Olympic sports federation can manage, even when combined. However, despite the heavy lobbying that was required to have Esports acknowledged as real sports as well as increasing amount of support that it has been amassing, there are many critical opposing voices that are still not convinced. Thus, apparently, the debate about whether Esports should be considered as “real sports” is not even close to coming to an end.

“The biggest competition to kids coming to our sports club is not handball or basketball, but the use of digital equipment. That is absolute impoverishment,” Grindel said, as reported by Reuters. “Sport plays a social function and this happens in the community. With sport, you have direct contact with those you play. Soccer is home to the green turf and has nothing to do with other, computer generated things. For me, Esports is not sports.”

Furthermore, the Grindel pointed out that he his opinion on the increasing amount that children and young adults spent on mobile devices to be “eine absolute Verarmung,” which can roughly be translated to “a total degeneration.”

There are, obviously, underlying interests on both sides of these debates and this makes it more complex than what people think is happening on the surface. Esports is inherently a for-profit industry and this is especially true for the industry players that have been backing it. The people on the opposing side, like Grendel, are also fighting to protect their market shares. Unfortunately, Esports is catching up quite quickly.

In November 2017, the International Olympic Committee would only consider having Esports as a component of the Olympics if Esports did not “infringe on the Olympic values.” This means that Esports games that feature explosions, violence and killing had to be ruled out.

Bitcoin Nears Regulatory Crackdown, Says Bank of England

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The Bank of England has issued a warning stating that bitcoin is headed towards a regulatory crackdown – it also pointed out that “inherently risky” cryptocurrencies are failing to fulfil their most basic function as a store of value. The banks’ governor, Governor Mark Carney, in a speech and interview that were held on Friday, tore into bitcoin. In his words, the world’s most popular decentralized digital currency is on the verge of a “pretty brutal reckoning.”

His remarks extended beyond bitcoin as an individual asset and included cryptocurrencies as a whole, which he also thinks have “all the hallmarks of a bubble. And normally they end with a pretty brutal reckoning.” Carney’s most significant concern was however portrayed by his call to have the “anarchy” of cryptocurrencies being utilized as a medium of exchange for criminal activities brought to an end. He said that it was about time that relevant authorities worked towards a framework to “regulate elements of the crypto-asset ecosystem to combat illicit activities”.

There are already a number of efforts around the world that are geared towards bringing bitcoin under the control of governments and central banks especially due to the prevailing fears that bitcoin users are likely to lose their money due to market manipulation. On the same note, there have been even more efforts directed towards curbing the use of cryptocurrencies for criminal activities such as drug dealing, money laundering and even financing terrorism.

In the run to Christmas in 2017, bitcoin soared very close to the $20,000 mark before plunging back by more than half at the beginning of the year. It has however recovered to $11,000 but there is still a ton of uncertainty plaguing the digital currency.

“Authorities are rightly concerned that given their inefficiency and anonymity, one of the main reasons for their use is to shield illicit activities. This cannot be condoned. Anarchy may reign on the dark web, but in the UK it’s just a song that your parents used to listen to,” Carney said in the speech.

Will Everything Be Put Under Scrutiny?

Staunch believers in the bitcoin dream have maintained that the underlying technology of most, if not all, cryptocurrencies will certainly revolutionize the existing financial systems and in the process make everyday payments not only cheaper but also easier than they seem to be at the moment.

Carney clarified on this particular issue saying that the bank would still study, explicitly, the use of the distributed ledger technology that powers cryptocurrencies. He concluded that, as much as cryptocurrencies “do not appear to pose material risks to financial stability,” the situation is bound to shift as more people become aware of them.

Ellen DeGeneres Has Been Hosting High-Stakes Poker Games

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Turns out, Ellen DeGeneres is a poker freak. The talk show regularly hosts high-stakes poker games at the California home where she stays with wife Portia De Rossi, but only Hollywood’s top names are invited to play.

Wait, is it legal? Well, of course, the games are completely legal in California. Reportedly, Ellen’s poker games are pretty huge, sometimes racking up pots worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the poker games have drawn so much attention since they show Ellen’s life outside her famous TV show – this is likened to her dark side.

According to Radar Online, the comedienne has a tendency of not holding anything back during the games – some of the participants of her poker games have described her as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of sorts with poker being her medicine of choice. A recent invitee gave an account of how she was not able to keep up with the game and this earned her Ellen’s wrath and rage for supposedly ‘ruining the game.’ This frightened the guest and caused her so much grief that she eventually decided to fold her cards and get away from Ellen’s $18.6 million oceanfront property.

The invitee, whose identity remains undisclosed said that “The energy around the table was very tense. Ellen threw a tantrum, and her screams echoed through the halls as frightened guests looked on in sheer disbelief!”

Is Too Unbelievable?

Obviously, this is definitely not the image that DeGeneres has been portraying on TV ever since she began her stand-up comedy routines in the late 70s. It was about the same time that Ellen made an appearance on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1986. Since then, Ellen has appeared in a number of films including the massively successful Finding Nemo and Finding Dory animated film. She also starred in a self-titled show, Ellen, for 1994 to 1998 before jumping on to her talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2003. Her Show has earned her 29 Daytime Emmy Awards alongside a Primetime Emmy Awards, two Grammy Award nominations as well as three more Golden Globes nominations.

Chelsea Handler, Melissa Etheridge, and Olivia Munn are some of the few Hollywood bigwigs who have been courageous enough to risk their pride by going against Ellen. All the attendees describe the games as tense and dark especially because they had to be careful not to step on the hosts, toes. Sometimes, she even throws objects in the room if things do not go her way.

Second Annual Live Gaming Summit: What to Look Forward To

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Since its rather humble pioneering start over a decade ago, live casino gaming has grown to be a vital component of the online gambling industry – the revenue statistics are proof of this. In fact, according to data provided by H2 Gambling Capital, by 2014 over 60 percent of the European Union’s regulated market’s Gross Gaming Revenue was generated by live online gaming. This already impressive revenue stream is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2020.

Owing to these outstanding financial statistics mentioned above as well as the tremendous market developments in the recent past, the Live Gaming Summit was conceptualized so as to bring together operators, providers, experts and many other stakeholders in the gambling community. This year on April 26th, the second ever annual Live Gaming Summit, is set to be held in Barcelona and will extend beyond discussions on online gambling to other key components of the gambling industry such as TV betting fantasy sports and land-based among many others.

It Is Getting Bigger

Many of the operators and suppliers who attended the recent ICE Totally Gaming Conference showed a great deal of interest in 2018’s Live Gaming Summit. Last year, close to a hundred visiting parties from over fourteen countries participated in the maiden edition of the annual Live Gaming Summit and they got to enjoy a number of sterling presentations as a well as an all-night networking opportunity.

As it stands, participating speakers from Ezugi, Evolution Gaming, Mr. Green, Unibet, and LeoVegas have already confirmed their attendance. With the diversity that the summit is promising this year, the summit has confirmed the attendance of representative from a number of AR and VR suppliers, fantasy sports providers, TV betting companies as well land-based casinos. Also confirmed to be attending are a decent selection of sponsors and media partners even though they are yet to be officially announced.

This year’s annual Live Gaming Summit will be hosted at the elegant Casino Barcelona which will still be running live action of its blackjack and roulette games. so, there is really so much more to look forward to.

MLS Reaching Out to New Breed of Soccer Fans Using FIFA 18

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Sports leagues are always racing to appeal to next-generation fans but Major League Soccer might have more at stake than any other league out there. In the Western sports world, that is, in Canada and America, soccer is still struggling to penetrate a market that is dominated by four big professional sports leagues: NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. However, this does not imply that there is no progress being made. Soccer has begun to become increasingly popular and this is all thanks to the young people of this era. How? You may ask. Well, apparently, the line between MLS fans and video game lovers is getting blurrier by the day and the league is capitalizing on this by launching its own Esports organization.

Dubbed eMLS, the Esports league was forked out of the MLS’ existing partnership with Electronic Arts (EA) for the video game provider’s popular FIFA series which in all rights can be said to have always had a near cult following. MLS is really focused on establishing an even stronger connection with their fan base. Based on the nature of the MLS audience, there is a distinct proof that there is a connection between electronic gaming and the league. According to 2017 research data from Simmons Research, MLS fans are twice as likely to be video game enthusiasts as average sports fans.

MLS also, through a survey that it conducted in 2014, found that over 60 percent of its avid followers pointed to Electronic Arts’ FIFA series as the first thing that got them interested in soccer – this is much higher than the percentage of FIFA players who got interested in playing the video game from being part of an actual soccer team.

“We’re starting to shift how we think about fandom holistically to say, ‘Hey, gaming’s a major component of that.’ Not only in where they spend their time, but how they express themselves as fans,” said James Ruth, the senior director of properties and events at MLS. “We want to use competitive gaming and eMLS to get the MLS experience to more people. There’s a ton of people — especially in North America — who engage with FIFA, but they’re not necessarily engaging with MLS.”

eMLS’ First Tournament to Stream on Twitch This April

The MLS’ first Esports league tournament first-ever is scheduled for the upcoming PAX East where the MLS’ 19-player team will compete for a spot at the league’s global payoffs. These 19 players will be split into two separate conferences – ten in the Eastern Conference and the other nine in the Western Conference. Each and every competitor will be required to create their own 11-player squads for the start, with seven more on the bench and additional five on reserve. The only catch is that three of 19 MLS players will have to be on the field at all times, including two from the club that the competitor represents.

The eMLS Cup will kick off on Thursday, April 5th with the preliminary rounds, with the top eight players from each of the conference progressing to seed being allowed to progress to seeded knockout rounds on Saturday prior to the Sunday’s Cup Final. The venue for the weekend matches will be the PAX Arena Main Stage, but if you cannot make it to the venue, you can stream it on PaxArena’s Twitch channel. The final, on the other hand, will also be broadcasted on MLS channel and its website.

The Drew Las Vegas Casino Resort Set to Open in 2020

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Global development firm Witkoff and Marriott International have partnered in a bid to open a new integrated resort and casino on the site of a project that was previously known as the Fontainebleau Las Vegas. The large casino-resort whose construction on the Las Vegas Strip has been left unfinished since 2009 is now scheduled to launch towards the end of 2020 under a new moniker – The Drew Las Vegas.

The site initially hosted the Thunderbird Hotel and Casino that opened in 1948, after which it was later renamed to Silverbird then El Rancho before it was finally closed in 1992. Eight years later in 2000, Fountainbleau Resorts purchased the property but after imploding El ranch bought additional acreage and began a construction project that was halted in 2009 before it was sold to Icahn Enterprises’ L.P.’s majority shareholder Carl Icahn for $600 million.

In addition to featuring a casino and about 4,000 rooms and suites, the new luxury entertainment project will also be hosting the Las Vegas strip’s first JW Marriot. Also, once open, Marriot International will be responsible for managing the hotels.

“It is going to be a design-forward building, and when we bring it all together, people are going to say, ‘I really want to come back,’” said Steven Witkoff, chairman, and CEO of Witkoff. “The structure here is so well conceived, even from nine years ago, that there are a lot of possibilities for us to put our imprint from a design standpoint on that property.”

What to Expect

The resort is expected to include 50,000 square feet of convention and meeting space alongside a variety of nightlife, entertainment, retail and over 20 dining options. Witkoff further mentioned that while the building’s design is yet to be finalized, the existing eight-and-a-half acre pool deck will be redesigned to make it stand out among all other in Las Vegas.

Another project that is also in the works and has an anticipated 2020 launch date is the multibillion-dollar Resorts World Las Vegas that is going to lean more towards Chinese and Chinese-American tourists. In total, the two projects will be offering 7,000 rooms to the area and this will also be at about the same time that a mega expansion of the Las Vegas Conventions Centre will be completed. Looks like Sin City is about to get even more exciting.

Overwatch’s Shanghai Dragons Announces First Female Player

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The Overwatch League has finally announced the first ever female player – there has been a tremendous amount of speculation regarding the matter in recent weeks and the League officially confirmed it on the team Twitter on Wednesday. The announcement also comes after recent discussions pertaining to the lack of female players in the very popular Esports title.

“I’m kind of shocked with the absence of women in the Overwatch League teams. For such a diverse game, with more than half of its roster being girls, it’s kind of disappointing. Girls play games too, and the lack of representation is not okay,” one critic pointed out on a Twitter post.

In what might seems to be an acknowledgment of concerns by critics, Shanghai Dragons, the team, announced the signing of four new players, who included Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon, who will be the Overwatch League’s first female player. Joining Geguri will be Le “Fearless” Eui-Seok, He “Sky” Junjian and Chon “Ado” Gi-Hyeon.

The Shanghai Dragons have had a good number of wins in previous seasons and it seems that the only way to go is up. However, the team will have to brace itself for the uphill task it will have to try and make their way up the overall standings in a bid to reach the playoffs by the end of the season. The newly signed players are going to be a critical part of this journey. For instance, Fearless is a tank main who previously played with Element Mystic while Ado is a great DPS player with great strength on Genji and many other Attack heroes. Sky, also, is recognized mostly for his Ana play in China’s Miraculous Youngster squad – in essence, he will be adding a great deal of flexibility to the team.

Being the first ever female player in the Overwatch League is definitely going to make Geguri the biggest name of the four newly signed games, but she brings so much more to the table. She had her first brushes with mainstream popularity within the competitive gaming community for her Zarya play, where she had an amazing 80 percent win rate. While other players thought that she was cheating, it turns out that she just that good. The Shanghai Dragons also seemed to be particularly impressed by her expanded hero pool that now includes D.Va, Roadhog as well as Zarya at higher levels.

Hopefully, these new additions will better Shanghai Dragons’ luck – they have not won a single series in the first stage of the season.

MGM Cotai Finally Opens in Macau As License Renewal Looms

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On Tuesday, MGM Resorts International finally opened its $3.4 billion casino resorts in Macau, a venture that is latest big bet by foreign gaming operators on the Chinese gambling haven. MGM Cotai, the casino, opens after months of delays and will be the new highlight if Macau’s Cotai Strip with its 1,390-room hotel-casino offering. Also, with the Chinese Lunar New Year just around the corner, the casino is expected to draw in massive crowds within the next few days of its launch.

MGM Resorts International is one of the six licensed casino operators in Macau which is the only place in China where the citizens can gamble legally. However, MGM’s operational license in the region is due to expire in 2020 alongside SJM Holdings’ license. The other four operators, that is, Wynn Macau, Sands China, Melco Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment, on the other hand, will be able to operate normally until 2022 when their licenses expire.

While Macau authorities are yet to provide more information regarding the renewal of the licenses, the launch of the new MGM Casino in Cotai is anticipated to hasten the process in one way or the other. In fact, Grant Bowie, the chief executive of MGM China, MGM Resorts International’s Macau unit, believes that the launch was critical for the concession renewal process.

“Concession renewals will be determined on diversifying Macau into more than just a gaming town,” Bowie told a news conference.

Riding the Revenue Boom?

As the license expiration dates draw nearer, MGM Resorts and other operators have worked tirelessly towards diversifying their non-gaming offering in a bid to pacify Beijing which has grown more wary about Macau’s acute dependence and reliance on gambling – 80 percent of revenue in Macau is derived from gambling.

At the moment, Macau gambling revenues are on the upswing having risen by 19 percent in the last year to $34 billion following years of declining fortunes as a result of wealthy Chinese gamblers shying away from the casinos to avoid being probed by an extended corruption campaign by President Xi Jinping. These Chinese high rollers who are making a come-back to the casinos helped to propel Macau’s rapid transformation into what is now considered to be a global gambling powerhouse.

Analysts are anticipating that MGM Cotai will open with about 177 mass gaming tables. VIP gaming is expected to be handled by middlemen junkets that are likely to go live by the end of the first half of year alongside MGM Resorts’ luxury mansion villas.