Exclusive interview with IGI's experts

UNLV: "The Metaverse's potential applications are limited only by the imaginations of entrepreneurs"

University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Reading time 4:20 min

Technology has been changing the way society operates: from health to entertainment, going through education and even on financial terms, new tools such as artificial intelligence have begun taking over aspects of everyday life. 

Gaming is not an exception. Yogonet contacted UNLV’s International Gaming Institute representatives and researchers to speak about how these technologies and trends will affect the industry in 2022 and in the coming years, and the role of UNLV’s Black Fire Innovation Hub which, in collaboration with Caesars Entertainment, investigates, develops and shapes the future of gaming. 

UNLV's International Gaming Institute.

Even though COVID-19 slowed operations down in 2021, it did not impair IGI’s activities. Not even their 30-year Executive Development program, which focuses on “post-traumatic leadership”, a key trend in workplaces in gaming and beyond during the COVID and post-COVID era. “We shifted to online, but the product remained as popular as ever. The gaming industry is enjoying a period of next-generation leadership, with a group of leaders who tend to be more tech-focused than their predecessors”, stated Bo Bernhard, UNLV Vice President of Economic Development and Executive Director of UNLV's International Gaming Institute

IGI's Executive Director Bo Bernhard & ICGR Executive Director Craig Ferreira.

Executive Director of IGI’s International Center for Gaming Regulation, Craig Ferreira, explained that during 2021, the institute continued to share regulatory best practices with both U.S. and international jurisdictions including Canada, Japan, Macau, Cambodia, Cypress, Malta, Australia, South Africa, Ghana and many Caribbean nations. 

“Our upcoming research projects will include a closer look at how technology and artificial intelligence can impact the sports wagering ecosystem”, Ferreira detailed. “And our second project takes a closer look at financial crime and how to fight it”, he pointed out, as the current trends in Nevada are cashless-bound.

In terms of innovation, the IGI’s Black Fire Innovation Hub is currently working on the continued convergence of esports and gambling, driven by the growth in sports betting across multiple jurisdictions, as well as the pandemic-driven growth in online entertainment

Executive Director of the Black Fire Innovation Hub, Robert Rippee.

Robert Rippee, Executive Director of the Black Fire Innovation Hub, detailed there is a strong trend involving applied robotics and its implementation to solve real-world opportunities and issues. "The emergence of the cobot robot as a robotic device that works in conjunction with a human counterpart has emerged as one of the most relevant aspects of this trend," he pointed out. 

Co-creation and intrapreneurship, two intertwined concepts which refer to an innovation cycle where the end-user or customer is often a large enterprise that presents a problematic issue to be solved through a collaborative innovation between the enterprise and a startup; and the actions of an enterprise to purposely create an entrepreneurial like culture within the company; are also gaining traction in the industry. 

And, of course, the metaverse, which Rippee also detailed that the Hub is deeply interested in, as its “potential applications are limited only by the imaginations of entrepreneurs and the development of products to support those ideas”. 

Decentraland's Vegas City in the Metaverse.

When asked about it, and the way in which the Hub perceives the introduction of the 3.0 technology and its potential spreading across the main jurisdictions, Rippee stated: “Innovation precedes regulation, so the paradigm of web 3.0 is still at the innovation stage. Consequently, the innovative ideas on gaming are likely to spread quickly as the ability to create new and engaging experiences or previously unimaginable experiences become a reality”. However, based on the same concept, he does not see the 3.0 technology having much effect on gambling in 2022. 

Rippee also pointed out that the markets most likely to adopt this kind of technology “are predictable, those who are typically early adopters, users who relish the chance to experience something new and different, yet are willing to accept a less than perfect implementation”.

One of Black Fire Hub’s most popular events in 2021 was focused on the metaverse, where a new Virtual Reality Lab was installed. The lab is already producing new games which will be available in the metaverse in spring. 

IGI's Research Director, Dr. Brett Abarbanel.

The metaverse and its proper regulation is still a pending assignment. However, the recently formed Esports Technical Advisory Committee will have a direct engagement of the IGI, as its Director of Research, Brett Abarbanel, was appointed as a member. According to Abarbanel, the Committee has its first meeting scheduled for early 2022, and will treat topics such as responsible gaming and on game/match integrity, as well as regulation and practices in digital spaces. 

“With the rise in sports wagering, online wagering, and cashless wagering, the biggest question we get asked is on the responsible gaming front”, Bernhard explained, in response to which the Entain Foundation-backed Center for Gambling, Policy and Health was created, led by former Caesars executive and research assistant, Jennifer Shatley.  

Research Assistant, Jennifer Shatley

“This prospective center -subject to final university approvals-, plans to expand beyond conducting research to an applied research-based strategy that operationalizes research findings into actionable and meaningful programs and policies for gambling operators, regulators, legislators, gambling-related providers, clinicians and other stakeholders”, Shatley detailed. 

The Center for Gambling Policy and Health was also described by its leader as a “solution center for one of the 21st century's most vexing problems: that of addiction and behavioral excess” and, once approved, it will be “the world’s first truly applied academic center dedicated to problem and responsible gambling”.

From psychology to law, to sociology to business, the Center will take its “cutting-edge science into the trenches– into gambling environments and technology spaces, into real-world settings, onto sports fields, and more – all while applying the latest scientific research to our unparalleled business and operations expertise”, Shatley concluded.

William S. Boyd School of Law

Along with Entain, the UNLV has also recently announced the creation of new online executive training courses in gaming law and regulation, which started January 10, and new courses as of March 1 at its William S. Boyd School of Law. It is desgined for operators, regulators, lawyers and others working in the gaming industry. 

The new program includes courses such as Introduction to Gaming Law and Regulation, Resort Hotel Casino Law, Introduction to Indian Gaming Law and Player Accountability & Corporate Social Responsibility in Gaming Law.

Julieta Galiano
by Julieta Galiano