Overwatch League Coming to ESPN, Disney and ABC

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On Wednesday, Blizzard Entertainment announced that it had struck a multi-year broadcast with ESPN, Dinsey and ABC family networks. The broadcast deal includes the Overwatch League playoffs which kicked off on the night of the announced, the Season 1 grand finals that will be played at the Barclays Center in New York later this month as well as the next year’s Overwatch League Season 2.

The coverage began on Wednesday with the playoffs on ESPN3 and Disney XD. This will be followed by 10 hours of the Grand Finals coverage which will also include a July 29 recap show on ABC.

“We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the Esports category,” said ESPN’s Vice President of Digital Media Programming, John Lasker. “We’ve had an interest and have been watching pretty closely how the first year of the Overwatch League has been progressing, and we’re really excited to be a part of this. Clearly, by the way, we’re going to be covering it starting with the playoffs and the finals this year certainly speaks volumes to our excitement and our enthusiasm overall for Esports moving forward.”

Even though the financial terms of the partnership are yet to be revealed, it is quite obvious that this is a huge step forward for the Overwatch League and the Esports industry as a whole. Also, existing distribution agreements such as Twitch broadcasts will remain and this combined with what the Disney and ESPN networks have to offer at both the linear and digital level, Esports are headed nowhere but up.

Is This It?

The Esports industry has been around for a very long time but is undeniable that the era of live streaming is one of its key propellants. Case in point, Twitch has grown and evolved to become the go-to streaming service for competitive video games such as Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Now, other players like Facebook are carving out their own offerings with regards to the Esports streaming.

Online streaming has done a great job for Esports and it will probably remain to be a leader in that regard but the very idea of an Esports tournament championship airing live in primetime on ESPN is very exciting, to say the least. The partnership is, by all means, a well-structured strategy to bring Overwatch to a much larger audience. This brings about a crossover of sorts but the defining factor is that each distribution point is representative of different demographics with a common interest – watching the highest levels of the Overwatch League gameplay.

“It’s a cross-section that’s a hardcore sports fan, especially on ESPN channels,” Pete Vlastelica, president, and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports leagues said. “They love watching competition, they love watching the best in the world compete at a great game. Maybe they have played video games. Maybe they know of Overwatch. Maybe they even play Overwatch or play it a lot. But they’re fundamentally looking to be entertained by the highest possible level of competition around a great game. And that’s what we’ve got.”

This could have just the right amount of momentum to propel Esports towards mainstream media and mass global adoption.

First All-Crypto Poker Tournament Headed for Atlantic City

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Atlantic City has been a haven for a number of big events in the past few months and it is about to get even better. The next big event will be the Blockchain World Conference (BWC) which will is scheduled for Harrah’s Resort between July 11 and July 13, but this is certainly not the biggest highlight of the event. The BWC also announced that it will be concluding the three-day conference with a bang by hosting the very first casino sanctioned all-crypto poker tournament.

The Blockchain World Conference is an event where blockchain and crypto experts meet to discuss the latest developments in the sector. Already, this year’s event is expected to be largest blockchain event in history with attendees ranging from celebrities to startups, ICOs, entrepreneurs, social media influencers, accredited investors, exchange facilitators, and developers. While these are certainly interesting aspects of the conference the crypto-poker tournament has been stealing the show ever since it was announced.

The 100-player event scheduled for July 14 will start at 11.00 AM is being hosted in conjunction with Blockparty, a blockchain-powered live event ticketing platform – the platform will be used by interested participants to buy-into games, betting as well as cashing out in digital currencies.

“What better way to end a three-day conference in Atlantic City than the world’s first crypto poker tournament? After three days of discussions about blockchain and cryptocurrency, this is a fun and unique way to bring our event to a close– highlighting a compelling real-world application of this technology, in true Atlantic City fashion. The Blockparty team are incredible leaders in blockchain-based live event ticketing and they were the perfect partners for us to work with for an event of this caliber,” Alex Falcone, the Blockchain World Conference COO said.

To guarantee a seat at the all-crypto poker tournament, the interested individuals must already be attendees of the Blockchain World Conference. They will also need to pay a $250 buy-in in cryptocurrency on Blockparty’s ticketing platform.

“As one of the first true real-world applications of blockchain and cryptocurrency, we’re excited to add another event category, like poker, to our ticketing repertoire. It’s a great testament to what we’ve built that the mainstream music scene and crypto enthusiasts alike are recognizing the ease and convenience of our platform and this is a great taste of what the future holds as mainstream adoption of blockchain only continues,” Blockparty CEO, Shiv Madan commented on the company’s partnership with BWC for the tournament.

The winner of the all crypto poker tournament will receive two VIP to the BWC South that is scheduled to take place in Hollywood, Florida, between December 3 and December 5. In addition to this, the winner will also be awarded a three-night stay at the Diplomat Beach Resort as well as a $10,000 cash prize. Blockparty has also promised to award any player that manages to knock out a pro, in addition to the competition it will be holding in order to find 10 people whose buy-in for the crypto poker tournament they will pay.

Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Casino Starts Online Gambling Site

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Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Casino and Ocean Resorts Casino went live last Thursday in some of the biggest grand openings in a very long time. This takes New Jersey’s thriving gaming market to a whole new level and it is even about to get better.

Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino on Tuesday afternoon quietly rolled out its online gambling operation just five days after its highly anticipated land-based casino opened its doors to patrons. Reportedly, this will not be the last time we are hearing of the launch of online gambling operations in the city – Ocean Resort Casino is apparently also preparing itself to offer online gambling to the New Jersey market.

According to the director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, David Rebuck, Hard Rock’s equipment and systems all passed the necessary tests and were thus cleared for operations. The operator’s online gambling site is now the 26th operational legal gambling site in the state. As for Ocean Resorts Casino’s supposed online offering, Rebuck confirmed that it is still in its testing phases with the New Jersey gambling regulators.

“Our online gaming team has done an amazing job launching one of the most dynamic online gaming experiences in the industry,” said Hard Rock’s Atlantic City president, Matt Harkness. “We’re excited to extend the Hard Rock brand beyond the Boardwalk and let casino players (play) across the Garden State.”

Hard Rock joins six other online casino gambling licensees including Resorts, Tropicana, Caesars interactive-NJ, Borgata and Golden Nugget. The state’s new gambling regulator also approved a number of companies that partner with the Atlantic City casinos.

New Jersey’s internet gambling begun officially in 2013 and has grown steadily since then into a very huge revenue source for both the state and the operators. In 2017, internet gambling brought in a whopping $245 million for Atlantic City casinos – this translates to about 10 percent of their total revenue.

Things are certainly looking up in this regard especially considering the fact that sports betting which kicked off in New Jersey last month will also be in the mix. This will without a doubt take the state through a quick period of recovery as these two new revenue sources – online gambling and sports betting – were lacking during the two-year period within which five of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos shut down. Already, two of them, that is, Hard Rock and Ocean Resorts casino, have been reopened and this proves that the state is indeed about to regain its former glory.

Indian Supreme Court Upholds RBI’s Cryptocurrency Ban

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On April 5, India’ central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a circular that was addressed to all regulated financial institutions including banks prohibiting them from offering their services to crypto-related business. The policy further mandated the financial institutions to stop allowing their own retail clients from purchasing cryptocurrencies through their banking accounts. A three-month deadline was set for the policy and therefore the ban should effectively take effect as from Thursday, July 5.

As expected, the move by the RBI to ban cryptocurrencies has caused quite a stir across India’s nascent but rapidly growing cryptocurrency community with a number of crypto exchanges opting to take up the issue through the courts. The Supreme Court just happens to be one of the many courts where petitions challenging the ban were filed – most of the petitions cited the RBI’s policies as being “arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional.”

The move was led by the Internet and Mobile Association of India which counts cryptocurrency exchanges as its members. The organization fast-tracked the legal challenge against the RBI ban and they finally got to be heard on the morning of June 3.

Unfortunately, the Indian Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra chose to side with the arguments of the RBI and therefore the cryptocurrency ban is still in effect and so is the July 5 deadline.

“This a win for the RBI and a big blow to virtual currency exchanges and traders. In our earlier request to the RBI as well, we had asked it to extend the deadline by a month after the July 20 hearing. However, now that the ban will continue, the banking route for the exchanges and its users will be completely choked,” said Rashmi Deshpande, an associate from legal firm Khaitan & Co who are involved in the petition.

Is This the End for Crypto Exchanges in India?

If you have been following the crypto industry in India, you may have noticed that it is quite likely that this might truly be the end of cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. There is all talk of total control of crypto being eventually handed to the RBI, something that, if goes through, will lead to the digital currencies being declared as completely illegal assets.

Furthermore, some top government officials have hinted at a number of regulatory or legal developments that are currently in the works and have the potential of turning everything around.

“We have prepared a draft (on virtual currencies) that entails what parts of this businesses should be banned and what should be preserved. This should be discussed by the first week of July and we should wrap this up within in the first fortnight of July,” Subnash Chandra Garg, the Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs said.

While we cannot be certain about what the future truly holds for crypto, the Supreme Court’s decision is most certainly bad news for the Indian crypto market especially considering how deep-rooted blockchain technology is in India.

Resorts Casino Partners with SBTech for Sports Betting

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As sports betting in New Jersey and the United States as a whole continues to pick up steam, Resorts Atlantic City has been busy adding a number of partners to support its bid to offer services to the sports betting market. Just a little over a month after landing a sportsbook partnership with renowned daily fantasy sports provider DraftKings, it was announced that Resorts on Monday, July 2 had inked a deal with SBTech, an industry-leading sports betting solutions provider for the regulated online gaming industry.

The deal will see SBTech “provide its sportsbook solution across on-property, online and mobile channels” in New Jersey. It also marks the second partnership agreement that SBTech has gotten into since the United States Supreme Court ruled to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May. The first partnership deal was with Churchill Downs – both deals are quite similar since both casinos will be leveraging the SBTech platform for their full omnichannel offering across all channels. There will be a lot of focus on on-property solutions that will hopefully provide a land-based solution for the future.

Resorts, through the partnership, will now be able to launch a fully-integrated omnichannel sports betting solution with an emphasis on mobile-friendly features like bet builder solution Your Bet or SBTech’s live betting innovation Pulse Bet.

In addition to this, Resorts will also be outsourcing its risk management and trading SBTech – SBTech will implement a bespoke risk management strategy that will be enabled by proprietary trading operations. This will, in turn, allow Resorts Casino to achieve genuine differentiation and at the same time achieve control of its liabilities will avoiding the influence of the wider pool-based risk management.

“After conducting a comprehensive selection process to find the right sports betting supplier, we feel that SBTech offers the right combination of deep regulatory expertise in the world’s most dynamic and demanding markets and the scalability to support our ambitious multi-vertical plans,” Resorts Casino Hotel president and chief executive, Mark Giannantonio said.

Partnering with SBTech is going to be great for Resorts Casino not just because the solutions provider provides players with uninterrupted access to sports and casino products from a wide range of devices but also because SBTech has superbly flexible gaming solutions. Resorts will benefit immensely from the exceptional configurability of the SBTech platform that is further supported by the very best business intelligence and reporting capabilities.

“Our strategic partnership with Resorts represents the next stage of our long-planned penetration of the US market. SBTech’s renowned commitment to delivering leading-edge solutions across all channels and intelligent responsible gaming infrastructure will help us develop a sports betting offering that will benefit our partners and promote best practice and the strongest levels of consumer protection,” SBTech CEO, Richard Carter stated during the Monday announcement.

International Olympics Committee to Host an Esports Forum

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Esports is getting closer and closer to going mainstream thanks to recent efforts and developments that are being driven by a number of interested and curious parties. One of the most notable developments so far are efforts by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) both of who have joined forces and recently announced that they will be hosting an Esports forum on July 21.

The forum whose key purposes is to act as a gauge of whether or not Esports can be part of Olympics will involve professional Esports players, Esports teams, games publishers, sponsors and event organizers as well as members of the International Sports Federations and  National Olympic Committees. The forum’s primary objective will be to “explore synergies, build joint understanding, and set a platform for future engagement between Esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement.”

“Along with the IOC, the GAISF looks forward to welcoming the Esports and gaming community to Lausanne. We understand that sport never stands still and the phenomenal growth of Esports and gaming is part of its continuing evolution. The Esports Forum provides an important and extremely valuable opportunity for us to gain a deeper understanding of Esports, their impact and likely future development, so that we can jointly consider the ways in which we may collaborate to the mutual benefit of all of sport in the years ahead,” said Patrick Baumann, the president of GAISF.

From what we could gather the terms used in the details of the forum’s objectives, the IOC and GIASF are not only trying to promote inclusivity but also trying to find ways of making sure that Esports will make some money for the stakeholders. On offer during the July 21 forum will be a series of talks and panels with regards to how the Olympics and Esports can work together.

In addition to this, the forum will include discussions on Twitch’s success and mode, the push for gender equality and inclusivity, governance structures as far as Esports is concerned and the lives of the professional Esports players.

Esports has continued to grow at an insanely fast pace and is now even considered to be the next biggest frontier in influencer marketing. While it is undeniable that the Esports environment is brimming with potential, advertisers will certainly have to reshape their sponsorship strategies so as to match the unique nature and dynamism of the Esports space.

Even if the Esports forum is successful, Esports is not going to be part of the 2020 Olympics but in 2024 we might finally get to see the first Esports Olympics. This is somewhat a blessing in disguise as it creates room for the committee to lay out suitable guidelines for Esports at the Olympics while at the same time getting acquainted with the nature of the Esports space through existing competitions such as the Overwatch League.

Immortals Acquires Brazilian Esports Brand and New Sponsors

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Following several months of rumors and speculation, North American organization Immortals has finally revealed that it has acquired a popular Brazilian Esports brand known as MIBR (an acronym for Made in Brazil) which had been previously defunct for a little over six years. MIBR’s mysterious return on June 7 hinted at the June 23 acquisition announcement. Immortals further announced that they have hired the team roster for the Brazilian SK Gaming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team.

Among the players that will be competing under the MIBR brand are a number of legendary CS:GO players and champions including Ricardo “boltz” Prass, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip, and their coach, Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia.

As previously announced, the general manager is Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen and he will oversee the activities of the team as they relocate to the Los Angeles-based Immortal campus to train and practice ahead of their first competitive appearance on July 3 to July 8 in the ESL One Cologne event at the Lanxess Arena in Germany.

“Brazil is incredibly passionate about Esports, and this acquisition allows us to foster further Esports growth in what we believe is still a relatively untapped market in Brazil and throughout South America,” said Noah Whinston, the chief executive of Immortals and now MIBR. “The MIBR brand creates a direct link to Brazil’s national pride and sports and entertainment culture. We are eager to invest in the Brazilian Esports scene and to create a platform for the region’s amazing professional Esports talent to continue to excel and dominate.”

Immortals owns a number of teams that participate in some of the most popular Esports events like the Overwatch League and Rainbow Six: Siege. Still, the acquisition of MIBR is expected to take the company to even greater heights – MIBR is, by far, the most popular and the most competitively successful team to play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Their return is, therefore, certainly going to be a game changer.

Partnering with Tinder and Betway

As part of the new developments following the acquisition, the MIBR Esports brand will be working with Tinder to bring together CS:GO fans from all around the world together through several digital and live campaigns and activations that will be exclusively for Tinder’s premium subscription customers.

“We know that gaming is a passion among many of our users all over the world, and we are excited to be the first dating app to enter the Esports space with Immortals as our partner,” said Levi Nitzberg, Director of Global Business Development for Tinder. “Tinder’s global presence and highly engaged user base provides us with a unique platform which, just like Esports, brings millions of people together to connect over shared interests.”

Also in the mix as one of MIBR’s partners is Betway, an online sports betting operator, which also happens to be a founding sponsor of Immortals. The online betting service provider will receive among many other things prominent placement in all the MIBR jerseys.

“Betway is delighted to support the revival of MIBR and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with them in bringing CS:GO fans closer to the team through exclusive content,” said Anthony Werkman, the Betway chief executive officer.

Ocean Resorts Gets Casino License, Confirms June 28 Launch

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Following an emotional two-day hearing, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission finally granted Ocean Resort Casino, formerly known as Revel Casino, a casino license on June 21 thus putting the new establishment’s June 28 launch back in track.

Just a little over a year ago the Revel hotel and casino was sitting empty on Atlantic city’s boardwalk, a bleak reminder of Atlantic City’s misfortunes rather than the glittering hotel and casino that many thought it would be. This was, however, only until Bruce Deifik, a Denver-based property investor decide to take control of the property towards the end of last year. By January 2018, he was already a majority owner of the property that has now been refurbished and renamed Ocean Resort Casino and is expected to go live on June 28.

Among Deifik’s intentions in regards to this venture is overcoming the history of the $2.6 billion property that was conceived over a decade ago. Revel casino was intended to offer somewhat of an antidote to the rather old-school casinos further down the boardwalk but, unfortunately, it eventually went bankrupt twice owing to a high debt loads design mishaps, and, of course, lots of competition. At the hearing, Deifik and his Ocean Resort Casino team addressed how they would handle these issues and how the business would benefit the city as a whole.

The Terms

As expected, the license came with a number of conditions – 26 to be precise – that was laid out by the state regulators at the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Among these conditions is one that addresses Ocean Resort Casino’s financial resources as well as its relationship with JPMorgan Chase, one its lenders. This was particularly meant to ensure that the refurbished property does not fall victim to the same financial struggles that plagued its predecessor leading up to the time of its closure.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the commissioner also had a number of “very serious concerns” that were shared by the Division of Gaming Enhancement that had given several recommendations on the pressing issues. However, as stated by Commissioner Alisa Cooper, “After listening to the very extensive, and personal, testimony of the past two days, my concerns have been eased.”

Deifik’s and the chief financial officer, Alan Greenstein’s, testimonies came on the first day of the hearing – they expounded on their vision for the casino hotel, the changes they had to the property as well as the group’s finances. On the second day of the hearing, Ocean Resort’s chief executive officer, Frank Leone gave a testimony in regards to the property’s marketing strategies.

“I can assure you that we’re going to speak loudly and clearly to the core casino audience,” Leone said. “Our promise is to have an unwavering commitment to exceeding guests’ expectations.”

Ocean Resort Gets License Hearing Ahead of Grand Opening

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Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort Casino is set to have its gaming license hearing on June 20, just eight days before its grand opening ceremony. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission which made the announcement requires the new owners of the former Revel Casino to obtain a casino license in order to offer gambling services at the renovated property.

Also set to open its doors on June 28 is Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City that was formerly known as the Trump Taj Mahal and just sits just a few paces away from Ocean Resort. Unlike Hard Rock which managed to acquire the gaming license in May, Ocean Resorts is yet to be heard. During the June 20 hearing, the state regulators will meet with Ocean’s management to make sure that they are aware of the burden of operating a gambling establishment.

The hearing will begin at 1 pm local time with the gambling regulator adding that in case some issues remain unhandled by the end of the session then one more hearing will be held the following morning. On the other hand, if everything goes well Ocean Resorts will be granted the gambling license. This will be followed by a building inspection and operations tests, both of which have to be completed before the June 28 official launch date.

What’s In Store?

The Ocean Resort management team welcomed media representatives earlier this week to give the public a sneak peek of the renovated property. The casino will be operating a 138,000-square-foot casino with 2,000 slot machines and a decent number of table games, a spa, nightclubs, six pools and some other family-friendly entertainment facilities. Also on the menu will be over 20 dining facilities, 16 of which will begin operating as soon as the casino launched on June 28.

The gaming floor will further include a sportsbook that will be operating in conjunction with William Hill, a British bookmaker. This comes just in time after the United States Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for sports betting.

“This is the heart of our casino. This will create amazing energy. There’s nothing better than seeing a lively group cheering on their favorite team. The casino is supposed to be a fun, vibrant, exciting environment and often times the sportsbook is the heart of that excitement. I think that Atlantic City will benefit greatly from having that added experience to all of its casino resorts,” Ocean Resort advisor Seth Schorr commented on the casino’s sports betting offering.

As part of the grand opening, the casino will be throwing a huge celebration on the opening weekend. This will feature performances from Jermaine Dupri, Diplo, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, Kaskade and many other high profile artists. With Hard Rock’s opening weekend scheduled for the same time, Atlantic City is bound to light up with festivities that you cannot afford to miss.

Sports Betting Gets the Green Light in New Jersey

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Finally, after more than eight years of fighting to bring sports betting to the United States, the state of New Jersey has officially been given the green light to begin legalized sports betting. This was done through a bill that was signed by the New Jersey governor Phillip D. Murphy on Monday – the bill specified that the wagering on various sports would begin on Thursday which is perfect timing since the World Cup is also about to kick off.

This makes New Jersey the third state to legalize sports betting and the second to do so after the recent Supreme Court ruling that abolished PASPA.

“Today, we’re finally making the dream of legalized sports betting a reality for New Jersey. I am thrilled to sign Assembly Bill 4111 because it means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects,” Governor Murphy said in the statement. “It means that our casinos in Atlantic City and our racetracks throughout our state can attract new business and new fans, boosting their own long-term financial prospects. This is the right move for New Jersey and it will strengthen our economy.”

What Next?

Ideally, the legalization of sports betting was anticipated to be smoother than it is in other states, but, unfortunately, there was a bit of politicizing that presented a major hurdle for the process. As of now, one of the only remaining impediments is the licensing process and the state and its regulators are trying as much as possible to hasten the process so that sport betting operations can go live as soon as possible.

The New Jersey Racing Commission will be handling the process this time around with an initial meeting, presumably to accept and approve license applications from operators, scheduled for Wednesday. If everything goes as planned, then Monmouth Park will be able to begin accepting sports bets as early as Thursday.

What the Law Entails

The bill that was approved unanimously by both chambers of the state’s legislature will allow casinos and racetracks to accept individual wagers immediately. Operators will also be given the opportunity to expand their reach by applying for licenses for online and mobile sports betting – this process will begin in about four weeks.

Punters can place bets on all professional sports and collegiate games that do not involve teams or venues from New Jersey. The sportsbooks are, however, not allowed to take action on high school games, and Esports or competitive video games. Also, as expected, the law did not include the integrity that the professional sports leagues have been lobbying for.