The new space created in Atlantic City by Casino Esport Conference (CEC) and the Esports Innovation Center (EIC) of New Jersey's Stockton University will have the insights and input of one of the key people who helped develop and enforce the state's regulations for online gaming and sports betting.
The inaugural CEC/EIC Northeast Summit, to be held in Atlantic City on October 18-19, has recently confirmed a speaker lineup including Eric Weiss, who has spent 30 years in the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) serving different roles such as Chief of Staff and Deputy Executive Director of the Technical Services/Slot Laboratory, before retiring in August last year and then becoming Vice President of Technical Compliance at a consulting company specialized in the gaming industry called Odds On Compliance.
"During all those years, I was personally involved in a lot of the initiatives that make New Jersey a great place for esports to thrive," Weiss tells Yogonet in an exclusive video interview, referring to his vast career at DGE. "We have some really cool stuff as a regulator in New Jersey. We have an incentive called New Jersey First, which says if you bring your product to New Jersey before any other jurisdiction, you'll get a regulatory review within 15 workdays."
In 2011, DGE streamlined regulations, and Weiss was personally involved with two industry work groups: the Casino IT, and the Casino Gaming Equipment Approval. "And those regulations in 2011 really brought all of the regulations up to date and incorporated best practices and reached out to the casino industry, which were part of those work groups to make New Jersey up to date and current with regard to that which would help esports really set the stage for things like Internet gaming, which occurred in 2013. And then we introduced skill-based regulations, which is also something that is talked about in esports. And then you have sports betting, which was introduced in 2018. So I was involved in all of those initiatives, and that's kind of my perspective that I bring as a regulator to this event," he outlines.
Nowadays, Weiss also volunteers his time with the Esports Trade Association, as co-chair of the Regulatory Committee, where they work with regulators across the U.S. to address their concerns about esports and help educate them about this market.
He believes the CEC/EIC summit targets anyone in the esports industry who wants to learn, and also those new to the industry who want to learn about it, "someone who's looking to maybe change careers or explore career opportunities in the esports space, casino executives." And he adds: "It's held in Atlantic City and all the casinos are right there. I'm sure there'll be casino executives there looking to see how esports can drive visitation to their casinos and increase revenue. And of course, there's going to be esports professionals, looking to expand their network."
In a recent conversation with Yogonet, Esports Innovation Center's Executive Director, Andrew Weilgus, said that there is no infrastructure in place in the casino market right now to facilitate this integration of esports in their environment. When asked about this issue, Weiss notes that there might not be any facilities designed specifically for esports, but he actually values the infrastructure strengths in Atlantic City in several other aspects. "So the first thing I'd like to talk about is Phil Murphy. Our governor has made it clear that he wants New Jersey to become the established hub for esports and related gambling. And he's supported by our legislature, who's demonstrated their support for esports through the passage of a bill in 2021 that clarified and removed certain restrictions on esports betting," he argues.
"And then locally, we have a bunch of organizations and leaders who are committed really to promoting Atlantic City as an esports destination," he continues, and lists a number of key, influential leaders in that sense, besides Weilgus himself. They include Larry Sieg, President and CEO of Meet AC, Atlantic City's Convention & Visitor's Bureau; Dan Gallagher, the Sports Account Director for the Atlantic City Sports Commission (ACSC); Lauren H. Moore, Executive Director at Atlantic County Economic Alliance in New Jersey; Bill Penders, Managing Director-Sector Development at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Michael Chait, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber; and Scott Huston, the Chief Information Officer at Stockton University, which has a campus in Atlantic City, and the founder of the esports program.
And besides this "tremendous amount of physical support" from the standpoint of human infrastructure, Weiss also brings the technology standpoint, with the introduction of iGaming to Atlantic City in 2013, which was also followed by Continent 8 data center, and a "tremendous amount" of redundant bandwidth supply from the Internet to Atlantic City. "And then you have the location itself. It's a great place for esports, located in the heart of the Northeast. So we're in easy driving distance from a third of the population in the United States. You've got Atlantic City, 60 miles, Phillies 125, New York is like 175 miles. Within just one hour drive, you got almost 4 million people to Atlantic City. So you couple that with world-class casinos. A progressive regulatory agency in Atlantic City has a fantastic infrastructure. So it's a great infrastructure, and a great location for esports to thrive," he concludes.
Furthermore, while Atlantic City casinos have faced urgent issues and strike threats over the past few weeks amid workers' contract renewals, which might leave the adoption of esports and immersive technologies in a far position today, Weiss points out that technology plays a vital role in the success of any company, and casinos are no different. "So casinos look to technology to give them a competitive advantage, to engage with their customer, to reduce cost and things like that. Whenever there's a discussion about esports, there's always a conversation about other technologies like the metaverse, virtual reality, NFTs and blockchains. To me, it remains to be seen really how these technologies will evolve in the casino gaming environment. But regardless, I think that esports are going to play a greater role in the generation of revenue for the casino industry. But I think it's a work in progress, it's still relatively new to the United States, and relatively new to Atlantic City. And everyone's trying to figure out how to to best use these technologies. And Atlantic City is no different."
Moreover, Weiss has attended the SBC Summit North America, held July 13-14 in New Jersey, and shared an overall assessment of what he learned there: "I think the takeaway for me was the importance for casinos to use their online gaming products to build relationships with their customers in order to increase land-based revenue. And what I mean by that, whether it's mobile sports, whether it's esports, whether it's iCasino, customers want to feel important and valued. And that's sometimes difficult to do when you're strictly operating online. Things like free-room shows, merchandise and meals, they've got to be incorporated into the online marketing programs so they can reach their customers to bring them into their casinos and to build the relationships with them."