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Casinos debate about taking a gamble on esports

Esports speech "Current Structure in Oklahoma Regarding Esports"

On Friday, the Tribal Esports Conference hosted talks including Sheila Morago's talk "Current Structure in Oklahoma Regarding Esports." 

Even though esports is rising in popularity, casinos are not ready to take on the task of adding them to their gaming floors, according to Sheila Morago, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

“Currently I don’t think esports is ready for prime time in terms of casinos,” Morago said. “It is definitely ready as a form of entertainment in our entertainment sessions, like concerts and anything else in those facilities. But in terms of actual gambling I don’t think we are ready there yet. We’ve got too many questions and not enough answers.”

About 60 people were in attendance during Morago’s speech at the Tribal Esports Conference. Nearly all agreed that casinos are not ready to take on the task of adding esports to their gaming floors.

The Slot Director of the Northern Region of Choctaw Casinos, Micheal Rutledge, agreed that esports are not ready to be gambled on.

“There’s a lot of different things you have to consider,” Rutledge said. “I don’t think it (esports) is ready to be wagered on. I do think it is something worthwhile looking into and possibly putting into a side venue, not necessarily a part of the casino.”

Jack Crane, the Director of Gaming Operations with Comanche Nation Entertainment, also agreed that esports does not belong in the casino and shouldn’t be gambled on.

“Most of the conversation … is talking about placing bets on it, and I think that’s where we don’t cross the line,” Crane said. “You walk right up to that line, you introduce this to the millennials, you get them into your event center, you treat it like a concert or a comedy act. Once you keep in at that level you can produce revenue off of the esports part of it by hosting tournaments and amping that part up, but you don’t take the bets off of it.”

However, the acting Executive Director for the Muskogee Creek Nation Office of Public Gaming, Jackie Gibson, does think there could be a benefit in incorporating esports for the youth of the tribe.

“I think it could be a benefit for the tribe,” Gibson said. “Within the tribes we always look for an avenue for a positive attitude for our youth. I think that this could ultimately be one of those ways outside of just the business venture of it, which is gathering a lot of attention and talk.”