Exclusive interview with Brett Abarbanel, Director of Research at the UNLV International Gaming Institute

New eSports lab at University of Nevada's IGI “looking at spring 2017 grand opening”

Brett Abarbanel, Ph.D. has expertise in global gambling and social science applications, and her research covers Internet gambling policy and behavior, eSports and gambling, operations and technology use, and responsible gambling and community relations.

United States 
| 27/10/2016

Brett Abarbanel gave Yogonet an inside scoop on the new eSports lab at the University of Nevada's International Gaming Institute (IGI) which aims to serve as an innovation and research center for the gambling industry.

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What is the goal of the eSports lab?

The purpose of the eSports lab is to explore the ideas and research the issues surrounding eSports and its integration with gambling

To achieve this, we’ve launched two major efforts to the IGI this Fall. First, we’re offering an eSports innovation course, in which students are exploring multiple facets of eSports and producing research and business plans relevant to the casino industry. Second, we’re installing an eSports research and innovation lab within the IGI’s Konami Gaming Laboratory, which contains a mock casino floor full of table games, slot machines, surveillance space, and a classroom. Much of the casino equipment will stay as part of the mix, and the space will be convertible to classroom space, making the lab home to one of the most technologically-advanced “classrooms” on campus.

What has been your approach towards the gambling industry?

For more than 20 years, the IGI has been a hub for gambling research, innovation, and education. Our research has been shared and implemented throughout the industry, governments, and the nonprofit sector all around the world, and we continue to work with all these stakeholders. eSports is simply the next step. With so much discussion around and inquiry into the topic, we’re equipped to easily incorporate it into the rest of our work. The lab, the innovation class, and our research will be used to answer the many questions that arise from this new field.

How's the process so far and when do you expect the lab to be completed?

For the physical lab space, we are still in the design phase

We want to ensure that the lab is integrated well into the existing casino lab, and that the space can also be used for research and educational purposes. The lab is a place where all sectors can come together and grow ideas; test new products; and research players, spectators, and the whole eSports experience. Right now, we’re looking at a grand opening in spring 2017.

Have you spoken with casino operators and gaming manufacturers yet? What is the outcome of these conversations as you continue to seek input from gaming experts?

We’re always seeking experts to work with us in developing a world-class, living and evolving lab facility in a developing industry that few understand. To accomplish that, we need input from many, and thus far, the input we’ve received regarding esports and our lab has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve met with casino operators and gaming manufacturers as well as stakeholders across the gambling, video gaming, and professional esports spheres. We haven’t met with the NGCB regarding the lab – we don’t operate a gambling business, and we have signs all over the lab to remind our visitors of that – but we have had discussions with them on esports and what our research has shown. The IGI’s International Center for Gaming Regulation is chock full of experts on Nevada and international gaming law, and we frequently look to them in our legal discussions.

Are any other states interested in launching a similar project?

First and foremost, our focus is on the UNLV IGI and building the best lab we can create here. If other universities are building out their own eSports labs, arenas, and other ventures, we always love to collaborate.

What other developments do you have underway?

We are regularly adding new projects as they arise.

Once the lab is built out, we plan to use it to track spectator behavior while the esports events are going on

We are also collaborating with the gambling and gaming industries and problem and responsible gambling groups to see how existing responsible gambling tools can be used in esports settings, including in-game and in-gambling-game. We’re also working with the UNLV’s esports club, 8 bit esports, to bring regular tournaments and game play to the space. They’ll be hosting LAN Vegas, aiming to be the biggest BYOC (bring your own computer/console) event in Las Vegas, at our building on November 18. We’re also taking advantage of our new research partnership with the University of Sydney in Australia, which is built around researching sports betting integrity, to look at esports game integrity and wagering issues. And the list goes on. There are so many interesting projects going on here, and we welcome everyone to come join in the fun.

For more information, visit UNLV

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By Macarena Rodicio -
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